‘It’s worse than I expected:’ Taylor County veteran reacts to business being destroyed by Idalia

Taylor County veteran gym owner reacts to business being destroyed after Hurricane Idalia
Taylor County veteran gym owner reacts to business being destroyed after Hurricane Idalia(WCTV)
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 9:53 PM CDT
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PERRY, Fla. (WCTV) - A veteran’s lifelong dream, ruined in moments.

Two weeks ago Hurricane Idalia wreaked havoc on much of Florida and South Georgia, downing trees, ripping up roofs and knocking out power. For Taylor County business owner Dustin Whiddon, the storm destroyed the results of years of toiling.

“It’s worse than I expected both in the community and it’s worse than I expected to me personally,” he said.

Whiddon served in the Marine Corps for 8 years. Afterward, he found his way back to Perry, purchasing a building that is roughly 110 years old and made it into a low-cost woman’s fitness facility called ConqHER Fitness. The facility grew over the years.

But after Idalia, half of that building is now in shreds.

The veteran set out to renovate this historic building about three and a half years ago.

“We started adding equipment and adding weights and talking to different members to see what they would like for us to have,” Whiddon said.

The water from the second story saturating the ceiling of the first floor, causing water to seep through. ConqHER Fitness is now forced to close its doors until repairs can be made.

“As I was talking with you while we were filming, we found standing water,” Whiddon said. “So it appears that my tarp job has an issue and we still have some roof leaks that we need to manage.”

Office Manager Amanda Gaddis shared her take on the facility and town weeks after the storm has passed.

“It was a lot worse than I imagined, there was so much wreckage and we just walked around in tears and lights are blown out and signs are down,” she said.

While the road to recovery is just getting started, Whiddon said he is looking forward to his community returning to what it once was.

“As you get out now a week or two later, It’s just like everything is missing a fullness if that makes sense. Everything is brighter. You’re missing shade everywhere. It looks like something is missing on the entire landscape of your community,” he said.

Whiddon has officially started applying for aid with FEMA and SBA. But in the meantime, if things keep going in the direction they’re hopeful for, the goal is to reopen its doors to members by September 22.

For those interested in supporting the comeback of the business, click here for a link to the GoFundMe.

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