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Neighbors Helping Neighbors following Hurricane Sally

APR's Lynn Oldshue
Melissa Chowaniec and her daughters deliver relief supplies in small Baldwin County communities

The Gulf coast is bracing for the expected arrival of Hurricane Delta later this week. Mobile and Baldwin Counties are still cleaning up from Hurricane Sally which hit in mid-September. Insurance companies say the damage toll from Sally could reach up to three billion dollars. Trucks loaded with debris and Power Company utility crews are a common sight. Some smaller and unincorporated communities are also seeing neighbors helping neighbors with hot meals and supplies. Melissa Chowaniec and her three daughters are pitching in this way.

"Hey, can we bring you some stuff?" asks Chowaniec. "What'd you like us to bring up some stuff? I have everything from toilet paper. Got spaghetti left. Yeah. Spaghetti. Hot spaghetti."

Melissa Chowaniec calls the people she has met in the weeks following Hurricane Sally. One of the first people they helped was a man who ran out of gas helping others cut down trees. The Chowaniecs also deliver hot meals they prepared or picked up from churches. They deliver to families at the end of country roads or hidden in the woods. They stop by a trailer park where Melissa says fourteen people are crowded into one mobile home following the storm.

Credit APR's Lynn Oldshue
Melissa Chowaniec and her daughters, making rounds, delivering relief supplies following Hurricane Sally

"You want some more stuff?" asked Chowaniec.

"Yes," responds a small boy. "We're running out of food."

Many families were already struggling before the hurricane. The damage to homes and property made hard lives even harder. They drop off an air mattress, spaghetti, and diapers to a family that left their trailer minutes before a tree fell into their bedroom. The mother says they are lucky they had enough saved to move into another trailer. They have a newborn and two year old.

"It destroyed our other home," the unnamed woman said. "So as what we had a little bit to give a down payment for this. We lived in Fairhope. Some big trees fell. It was like two in the morning. And we were like, I told my husband, I don't want to be here."

Melissa says they aren't just a group coming in for a few weeks. She and her daughters are in it for the long haul until the people they encounter are back on their feet.

"This is long term. This is not just this, this is the door for us to walk in and, and, and change things on a different level," she said. "I mean, even if our friendship and giving them a little hope that Jesus really does help all this out. You're going to be okay. We live here too. So it's not like, Oh, here's some stuff and then we are going to leave you. We had been asked, are you from the Red Cross or the Nation Guard? We're like, we're just neighbors helping out."

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