By Melissa Hambrick
Packing up the car for fall break at the beach?
You might consider tossing some tarps and diapers in there, too.
As the Florida panhandle continues to dig out from the devastation left by the 155 mph winds of Hurricane Michael, many Middle Tennessee residents are headed to the 30A area for fall break, which begins on Wednesday, October 17, for Williamson County Schools. Franklin Special School District began a week of fall break on Monday, October 15.
As of Sunday, more than 190,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without electricity. At least 19 deaths are credited to Hurricane Michael, which made landfall near Mexico Beach. The 30A area, which spans popular vacation areas like Santa Rosa Beach, Seaside, Watercolor, Seacrest, Seagrove, and Rosemary Beaches, was largely untouched by the storm, and is open for business.
Originally from Tennessee, Karen Moore of ResortQuest by Wyndham Vacation Rentals’ Seacrest office has lived in Walton County for 19 years. She and her family went to the area and gave out sandwiches soon after the storms.
“Panama City is our biggest close city, and many of the people who work here on 30A live there,” Moore says.
Hilary Farnum-Fasth, owner/broker at Hilary & Reverie Real Estate, notes that the damage starts at Hathaway Bridge, about 20 miles east of the popular Williamson County vacation spot of Rosemary Beach.
Hilary & Reverie is one of the many local businesses on the Gulf Coast helping to collect items for distribution to their neighbors. Their drop-off site is the sales center of Grace Point, located between popular hangout The Hub and the WaterSound Beach Club, at 87 Grace Point Way.
Many in the 30A area have Tennessee connections and have been encouraged by the support they are receiving from the north.
“One of our team members evacuated to her hometown in Tennessee, and raised $2,000 in about an hour from friends and family for a Costco run to bring back down to the beach. The people of Tennessee have huge hearts, especially for the beach they love,” Farnum-Fasth says. “It’s getting more dangerous to go into the areas where the damage is located, but we are collecting donations and are taking these items directly to families in need. “As of October 14, the biggest need is diapers, wipes and baby needs. Tarps also are needed, and we are running out of them here in the area, so if people headed this way can bring them from Tennessee to our drop-off center, it would be great.”
Steve Carpenter, owner of Crabby Steve’s Bar and Beachside Grill at High Pointe Resort, agrees.
“I have been contacted by numerous Tennessee friends coming down this week and have been asked what we need. I have told them if they bring things directly here, we will get it to our neighbors,” he says. “Just make sure you are giving to people or places you know.”
Crabby Steve’s Bar and Beachside Grill is hosting two online auctions at their Facebook page to raise funds for the area as well, including a dinner and drinks for two package, and a customized Crabby Steve’s cruiser bicycle, with the high bid currently at $2,000 from Tennessee.
Kevin Boyle, Director of Events for Seaside, has crews that are making deliveries to the area as well, with donations of water, baby items, non-perishable food, paper towels and wipes accepted through the end of the week at Central Square in Seaside.
“The outpouring of support has been amazing,” Boyle says. “We’re very humbled by the generosity of our community, both locals and guests, to help our neighbors to the east.”
While Seaside dining favorite Great Southern Café has a Mobile Relief Kitchen set up and on its way to the area, Santa Rosa Beach’s Local Catch Bar & Grill at 3711 W. County Hwy. 30A is hosting “Rock the Relief” from 1 to 5 p.m. on October 20. The Forrest Williams Band and The Luke Langford Band will perform, with donations and supplies collected at the door.
If you are traveling to the 30A area and want to help, donations needed include: batteries, cleaning supplies, paper goods, hygiene items, toiletries, diapers and wipes, baby food and formula, sunscreen, water, tarps, non-perishable food, pet food, and disinfectant wipes.
There are many drop-off sites in the area at local businesses. The Walton Area Chamber of Commerce at 63 South Centre Trail in Santa Rosa Beach, off US Hwy. 331, the main road leading to the beach areas, will be accepting donations next to the Courthouse Annex. The Chamber encourages those who would like to volunteer or donate to go online to VolunteerFlorida.org.