When the weather forecasters warned of the possible wrath of Hurricane Michael, this 4-H Agent was at a conference in Ohio. I immediately started making phone calls to the airline on Monday, December 8th, trying to change my flight to get home before the storm hit. My flight was changed multiple times before it was finally canceled all together until after the storm. I begged and cried and pleaded with an airline agent on December 9th who finally got me onto a flight into Jacksonville on the morning of the 10th. I borrowed my son’s 4-wheel drive and made my way to my home in West Gadsden County. I drove through winds that nearly took me off the road, over trees and downed power lines. I had no idea what was in store. None of us did. In the days that followed, we all did our best to survive. We became the blue tarp community if we still had a roof to tarp. Some of us didn’t. We lost crops, barns, fences, jobs, our livelihood, but we never lost hope.
Jackson 4-H was blessed to have the support of 4-H groups from around the state who rallied to provide for our needs. When I sent out a plea for socks, shoes, and underwear for Riverside Elementary, Nassau County 4-H not only brought enough new socks, shoes, underwear, and coats for not just one school, they brought enough to supply Malone and Grand Ridge schools plus food, toiletries, and other essentials. Miami-Dade 4-H sent generators, chainsaws, food and other supplies. Newberry and Glades 4-H sent livestock feed, fencing supplies, human food, and supplies.
The Florida 4-H and FFA Supporters group led by Stephanie Collins, gathered fencing supplies, building supplies, livestock and pet feed. Stephanie along with volunteers Jeramy Smith, Marian Reckart, and her husband and children, and Monica Rogers camped in tents and spent the week of Thanksgiving rebuilding pens and fences for 4-H families and FFA groups. Florida Urban Homesteading, Inc. supplied 25 meals for families at Thanksgiving. Madison County FFA brought livestock feed, clothing, and other supplies. Former Jackson 4-H member Brittany Peacock and Aiken South Carolina 4-H brought food and toiletries. Nassau County 4-H has also adopted a Jackson 4-H family for Christmas as has Travis Murphy and the Beef Builders 4-H Club. Jackson 4-H volunteers Stacey Warden, Terri Hardin, Lindsay Kiefer and Anita Crossley manned relief stations and delivered supplies.
Through it all, we have “endeavored to persevere” and will continue to do so. Our roots run deep and our ability to “make the best better” is a testament to our 4-H heritage in this county. I have no doubt that we will rise above the piles of debris and have a better tomorrow.
I am satisfied that the 4-H program is in good hands with the dedicated 4-H volunteers that are in place and they will ensure that the program goes forward as I leave. My last day with UF/IFAS Jackson County Extension will be January 3, 2019. My time with Jackson 4-H has been unforgettable and I will treasure the memories. Thank you to the Jackson community for your friendships and for making the youth of this county a priority.
4-H offers a broad spectrum of projects and activities to serve a variety of interests, skills, and knowledge. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the Jackson County 4-H Youth Development program contact the 4-H Office at (850) 482-9620.