Rural communities band together in the wake of Hurricane Michael

FOUNTAIN, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - "During the storm, I realized that it's not just one organization, it's not just one person, and it's not just one church, but it takes everybody," said Pastor Cathy Crider.

As time goes on, life may not be back to normal in the small northern Bay County communities, but it's getting better. (WJHG/WECP)

On an average day, you may not notice the Fountain's Victory Tabernacle church off of Highway 231.

But in the days and weeks after Hurricane Michael, the small church helped thousands in northern Bay County and made sure they were not forgotten.

Pastor Crider said, "Every single day we were up here giving supplies out anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day."

Dianne Broome, a member of Fountain's Victory Tabernacle said, "It was just amazing to me to see all this area full almost to the roof, then when it came down to almost be gone and then immediately it would be full again."

The church was just finishing up renovations when Hurricane Michael hit on October 10, 2018, they never expected a hurricane to be this destructive so far from the coast but when the damage was done, church members knew they were needed.

Crider said, "When the need arose, that's when I said, 'It doesn't matter to us about the remodeling. People needed to be fed, people needed water, people needed supplies.'"

In the weeks following the storm, Pastor Crider, members of her congregation, and in some cases complete strangers. helped pass out supplies donated from around the state and country they became a lifeline for the people of northern Bay County.

Crider said, "Tuesday morning we started setting up to give out supplies and everything and there was a food truck that showed up from Caryville. A church that I didn't even know them, but it didn't matter if I knew them. They said they had prayed and the Lord instructed them to come to Fountain."

One day, they had as many as two thousand people stop by for help.

Broome said, "The way that the people were, they came here hopeless. They needed help. There were so many that, they had nothing."

To some, the church became more than a place for supplies, it became a home.

Gloria Lane, a member of Fountain's Victory Tabernacle said, "Me and my family, I have a big family. I have five grandchildren, my husband, and my daughter. We got to where we had no place to live at all, our pastor allowed us to live here. We were sleeping on air mattresses and we slept here. This was our home for about two weeks."

Even now one year later, the supplies are gone but for some, the need is not.

Broome said, "Even today, there are people right here in Fountain that need help."

Pastor Crider remembered one woman who was brought into the church by a member just a few weeks ago saying, "She come bringing in a mom with four kids, that was living in a van. They're still like that. We were able to feed her, and we were able to minister, and to try to help her in everything."

As time goes on, life may not be back to normal in the small northern Bay County communities, but it's getting better.

Broome said, "Is everything perfect at our house? No, it's not. We have tarps still, we have trees down in the yard still, but does that worry me? No. What worries me is when I see a mom come in with those four little kids and you can tell those kids are hungry."

Hurricane Michael pushed local families to their limits, but it also drew them together, and in the midst of the rubble the one thing left standing for many, was their faith.

Lane said, "I don't know where I would be at without my faith. I know there is a God out there that is helping me through this. I know that it's taking me a while to get my home but when I get it, I'll be blessed because I'll have a new home. I've lived in my home for about 28 years when I lost it and I lost everything."

Thankful for the little things, these neighbors came together in a big way.

Counting their blessings for every breath they take after the storm and breathing new life, into the place they call home.

"October the tenth, whenever that day comes, I'm going to wake up and I'm going to say, 'I survived,'" said Crider.

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