Small Town Helps With Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts

By Vivian El-Salawy on September 14, 2017

Hurricane Irma left nearly two-thirds of Florida in the dark this past week, with some 6.3 million people being told to evacuate before the storm’s arrival, per BBC World News.

With night-time curfews being imposed in areas from North to South Florida, to major flooding, exterior and interior damage, power outages, and water/gas shortages, Hurricane Irma was said to be one of the largest hurricanes to sweep through the Atlantic coast. Many Floridians fled to surrounding states, such as Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and so on.

With bumper-to-bumper traffic for over 400 miles on I-75, hurricane evacuees were desperate to find food, lodging, gas, and most importantly, a sense of security. Trip Advisor reported that Atlanta’s hotels were 95 percent booked, and with the hurricane heading towards the Atlanta metropolitan area, Airbnb availability was limited.

Image via Times Free Press

However, many of the small, surrounding towns lent their helping hands in any way that they could during this time of chaos for Florida evacuees — Woodstock being one of them. According to Woodstock.gov, the City of Woodstock is over 100 years old, making it one of the oldest towns in Cherokee County. With I-575 and State Highway 92 running through the heart of it, it is relatively accessible and as a result, has grown immensely within the recent years.

It has your typical small town community, with bike trails, parks, local farmers markets and supportive business that help one another grow. In 2013, Woodstock was even recognized as Tree City USA, annually celebrating Arbor Day by giving away tree seedlings and educating the local community on tree planting. This environmentally friendly, involved community was nothing but inviting to those fleeing from Hurricane Irma.

Image via WoodstockGA.gov

Deals on food and drinks:

Ipp’s Pastaria & Bar offered a deal you could not turn down. The Italian restaurant combines old traditions with new tastes, brought to consumers by the Ippolito family. To help hurricane evacuees feel at home, Ipp’s Pastaria & Bar offered a free appetizer to Florida residents via their Facebook page:

We know how difficult it has been for those who have had to pack up and leave their homes as Hurricane Irma approaches. So this Friday through Sunday, we hope we can help bring a little bit of relief from the stress of the storm by offering a free appetizer (one per table) to those showing a valid Florida I.D.”

Reformation Brewery, a values-based company located in Downtown Woodstock, consistently connects with the community through community-led groups and events. According to their website, Reformation focuses on six core values: acceptance, story, authenticity, moderation, humility, and humor. Through engaging these values, the brewery hopes to create an impact on the community around them.

On their Facebook page, Reformation Brewery announced that if you are from out of town seeking refuge from storms, with a valid I.D., your first pint is free. Additionally, Reformation partnered with Georgia brewers from August 31 to September 30 in a donation drive to provide food and cleaning supplies for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Pack the Pallet for Houston is a donation drive that is seeking to assemble 20 pallets of goods to send to Houston, from canned items to water, juice, pasta, and so on. The drive also seeks donations of cleaning supplies, such as paper towels and bleach. For more information, you can click here.

Image via The Beer Connoisseur

Financial aid offers:

Downtown Woodstock’s official Facebook page also released a statement regarding hurricane evacuees:

“We would like to extend an offer for evacuees to pick up a $10 downtown dollar gift certificate from the Visitors Center for use at several downtown businesses and restaurants. Please show your ID as proof of residence to claim yours at the Visitors Center (8588 Main Street) between 10A and 5P Friday & Saturday.”

Entertainment deals:

Elm Street Cultural Arts Village, Downtown Woodstock’s thriving arts center, offers performances and exhibits year-round, along with classes in drama, art, and music. For hurricane evacuees, Elm Street offers a discounted $5 ticket to see their current play, Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer: A lights-out comedy where nobody can really see.

Black Comedy runs from September 8 to September 17 and is rated PG-13, where “in one hilarious farce, the action supposedly in the dark is illuminated; when the lights are to be on, the stage is the dark.”

For more information on ticket sales for Black Comedy, you can click here.

Image via Elm Street Arts

Jillian Melko, the Community Engagement Coordinator for Elm Street, touched on the value of Woodstock’s community.

“Small towns are more likely to band together because we have a sense of community. We know that when other communities are displaced, that it’s our place to take in those looking for a temporary home,” Melko said. “Especially at Elm Street — we are all about engaging the community and making sure that people know they are welcome here.”

“We emphasize hospitality and want others to know that they have a place to go and things to do here, that they aren’t stranded in a foreign place,” she added.

The small town of Woodstock, Georgia, is only an example of the many surrounding places north of Florida that have been nothing but generous and hospitable for both Irma and Harvey evacuees. Most hurricane evacuees first thoughts would be to flee to larger cities, as they have bountiful resources; however, Woodstock serves to show that small towns have great things to offer surrounding communities as well.

Vivian El-Salawy is a graduate of Florida State University with a B.A. in Editing, Writing, and Media with minors in Slavic (Russian) Studies and Communications. Alongside writing for Uloop News, WVFS Tallahassee 89.7 FM, and editing for the Good Life Community magazine, she is heavily involved with a Tau Beta Sigma, a national honorary sorority that promotes women in the band profession.

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