Community shows hospitality, offers free lunch to evacuees

Published 1:04 pm Friday, October 7, 2016


With the hotels in Bainbridge full of evacuees from Hurricane Matthew, the community has come together to provide a free lunch and water to those in need. Led by the congregation at Southwest Baptist Church, lunch was provided in the Howard Johnson parking lot from 11-2 on Friday and will be provided again on Saturday.

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“This is overwhelming,” Donna Tucker who evacuated to Bainbridge from Jacksonville said. “This is overwhelming what the church has done.”

Southwest Baptist organized the event, but they received considerable support from businesses throughout the community. They received donation from Howard Johnson, Boyd’s BBQ, Little Caesars,  Pepi, Harvest House of Hope, WalMart, Winn Dixie, Yesterday’s Diner, Sonya’s Signs, S & C Grocery, the BHS football team and Bainbridge High school.

“We got a call from Howard Johnson wanting to know if we could put people up in our church, but we’re having a wedding so we couldn’t do that,” Stanley Phillips, the minister at Southwest Bainbridge, said. “We wanted to do something so we said can we set up and just feed everybody that’s been effected by the hurricane. That just started [Thursday afternoon]. Its amazing how it got put together and then other businesses just started hearing about it and wanted to donate.”

In just the first half hour that meals were provided on Friday, it was estimated that already 100 evacuees had been fed. The event brought together people from throughout the east coast as they shared a meal and fellowship.

“We happened to meet people from St. Augustine, Atlantic Beach, which is our area,” Tucker said.

Al and Donna Ortenzi, who evacuated from St. Augustine, said the event reminded them of the community’s response to a hurricane that hit when they lived in New York and that they have seen nothing similar since. 

“I thought this was amazing,” Al said. “I’ve only seen one thing like in my life before back east. We used to live in New York. We fed a couple thousand people.”

Evacuees were also provided with free tickets to Friday night’s home football game against Veterans and Phillips said that they will look into providing lunch after church on Sunday if many of those effected are still in town.

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