Written by Terri Byrd
Unless you have lived through a hurricane, you just don’t know how truly scary it can be. Those few days leading up to this massive storm were frantic and worrisome. Which way will it go? Which way will it go? Tallahassee got lucky, really lucky! 50 miles east and further still, not so much. During the storm I was able to keep in contact with several of our Tallahassee ladies who live in and around the “evacuation” area. You don’t get to know some people better than on a group chat during a storm, let me tell you! Thankfully we all got through it ok, but several had family members who live closer to the hurricanes path who ended up with badly damaged and uninhabitable homes. Jamie Lynn Crosby (PA to Larry Wilkes) was one of those who had family in that predicament. She is from Blountstown Florida and that is where her Dad and Mom still live. They lost their roof and some of the walls in their house needed to be replaced. After talking with her, I knew I wanted to see if Ajax could assist those in the Panhandle area this holiday season, just like we did with those in the Florida Keys last year. The damage left behind after Hurricane Michael has had such a devastating effect on those who already had very little.
First off, I asked Jamie Lynn to inquire if the 3 elementary schools in Calhoun County had some kids and or families who might need assistance this holiday season. These are small (very small) communities. Sadly, many of the residents live at or around the poverty level. I have met several people who have recently relocated to Tallahassee because they are unable to re-build, and the schools in Leon County have already seen an increase in new students. Those with extensive home damage and who have chosen to stay are living with family, in campers or mobile homes that somehow survived the storm. So yes, they had need in the area. Once the ok was received from Bill and Jay, Jamie Lynn immediately went to work. Being from the area (where everybody knows everybody) she knew who to call at each school.
Over the past few weeks we have been completely humbled by the generosity of our fellow employees! Every day when packages would arrive it was like we could see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they would open these gifts. There have been so many coworkers that I spoke to that were so happy to give to the kids in Calhoun County. We even had several say “let me know if you need anything else.” Anything else…wow!
On top of the toys and clothes that were sent to the Midway Office, the cash donations that were sent totaled $1,770.00! When Jamie Lynn called the schools telling them that we had extra money to spend on their kids, she could hear the catch in their voices, they were so very grateful! With almost $2k to spend we spent several hours shopping and purchasing items with your monetary donations. More toys and clothes for additional kids at Altha and Carr, as well as socks and blankets for each child. We also purchased fruit and breakfast/cookie trays for the administration and teaching staff of all 3 schools. These administrators and teachers have been working so hard to make sure their kids get the education they deserve, even though this is a terrible time for many.
After all the rushing around and checking off lists, Jamie Lynn and I loaded up her big ‘ole truck and my little red sedan with all of your gifts. Every spot available was taken up with presents to deliver (think Tetris)! We even unloaded the tool cabinet in Jamie Lynn’s truck to fill with gift bags (which in hindsight was not good as out-of-sight, means out-of-mind. And yes, we forgot about those 2 bags in that cabinet and had to backtrack a bit.) I wish all of you could have been there, could have gone with us. Since you were not, I documented our trip. The photos you see below were taken along the way and at the schools with the staff there. Remember this area is only 60 miles east of Tallahassee.
CARR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Our first stop was Carr Elementary School where Ajax adopted 7 kids, ages 3 to 12. We were able to provide them not only with clothes, but toys as well due to our employee’s generosity. Pictured below are Principal Darryl Taylor, Assistant Principal Karen Pitts, and Cheryl McDaniel (Jamie Lynn’s mom who works at Carr.)
ALTHA PUBLIC SCHOOL
The next stop was Altha Public School where we adopted 14 kids ages 3 to 13 who had either lost their home in the hurricane, or who were in need due to family issues. Our list from them included a list of toys or sports equipment that each kid would love to have. Below JL is pictured with Assistant Principal Treva McCroan and School Guidance Counselor Zoe Tatum.
BLOUNTSTOWN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
The staff at Blountstown Elementary requested that we donate playground games and activities for their students. Due to the extensive damage to their school, these students were moved to Blountstown High School, Carr and Altha. Those school kids moved to the high school will not only be enjoying the games that you donated but new playground equipment thanks Ajax who donated $3,000 towards purchasing several commercial swing sets. I imagine that the teachers will be just as happy as the students when they come back after the Winter Break! Pictured below are with Jamie Lynn and myself is Vice Principal Tiffany Nicholas accepting the $3,000 check from Ajax along with the donated (yet boxed and unopened) playground equipment including kickballs, several ladder golf sets, cornhole, and other various yard games.
Once again, many thanks to all of you who were able to give to this effort. There are many children who are being blessed by your kindness.