JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two weeks after Irma, many people are still struggling to rebuild their lives. On Sunday, a group from Kentucky came to Jacksonville to give away food and supplies on the city’s northside.
The cafeteria at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School was packed with essential items for students and their families. The school’s principal, Cindy Gentry, has seen Irma’s effects on the community.
“On top of the fact that we’ve had a weather event, we have some poverty in our area as well which makes it more difficult for families to start to recover,” Gentry said.
They gave away boxes and bags full of food, water, cleaning supplies and toiletries to hundreds of people. The donations came from a group called The Healing Project in Kentucky.
“I was looking for locations in Florida that seemed to be the greatest in need, so where the flooding was the worst, where the hurricane hit the hardest. We also look at things like economic level of the folks who live in a particular area to look for places where it looks like they can especially use the assistance,” said The Healing Project’s founder, Dawn Choate.
Local business Sticky Fingers Ribhouse was also on hand serving up free meals. Kisha Williams and her family were one of many that came to receive the aid.
“We had a lot of branches and debris and all that stuff so we’re just kind of recovering from all that,” Williams said. “The cleaning supplies was the biggest thing because you don’t take into account you need it when things are in chaos. Just being able to have a roll of paper towels or a bottle of Pinesol makes a big difference.”
They had to throw away all their food after losing power for four days.
“You’d be surprised at the things that you lose when you go through a storm like this. You’d be surprised at the things you need to recover, so just to have that extra bit of help it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing," Williams said.
This is the third stop in Florida for the Kentucky-based non-profit, also giving aid to folks in Miami and the keys.
“To get to be able to share the photographs and videos with the people back home who made all of this happen, it’s really beautiful to me because it’s so incredible. It’s really so much bigger than we expect it to be,” Choate said.
For the people in this community, the gesture is going a long way.
“It’s just heartwarming to know that there’s so many people even as far as Paducah, Kentucky that are willing to give and so many people want to help,” Gentry said.
To learn more about the Healing Project, click here.