He was supposed to be celebrating his 18th wedding anniversary this past weekend.
Instead, on October 12, the day after Hurricane Michael made landfall, Stephen Cain had entirely different plans: preparing to go to Panama City, his old hometown where his parents, sister and other family still live. With him was $25,000 worth of supplies packed in a 20-foot U-Haul: tarps for damaged roofs, chainsaws for fallen trees, water, gasoline, and other emergency supplies. Though he lives in Miami, he planned on bringing the supplies to his help the people of the Panhandle, cutting through fallen trees on the way if he’d have to.
“My wife supported it wholeheartedly,” he says. “My boys wanted to come up, but they need to stay in school.”
After staying in Orlando for a night, Stephen arrived in Panama City on October 14. On the way, Stephen stopped at every Home Depot to buy every tarp they had; tarps are often the hardest thing to find in hurricane-stricken regions. Since he arrived, he’s been busy distributing the supplies to whoever needs them.
“We Left Knowing We Had Come to the Right Place”
Stephen has been inspired by the community’s strength in the midst of “utter devastation,” he said to the Daily Business Review, who wrote a story on his trip. Only days ago, Stephen delivered food to a friend’s church and helped feed more than 500 people. He also delivered as many tarps as he could spare to help people protect their homes from further damage.
To see Stephen’s efforts to deliver food, water, and supplies, check out the video below:
He has arranged for more trucks to deliver supplies over the next few days. He has also set up an online fundraiser to help residents in the Panhandle with recovery efforts.
The Long Road Ahead
Per Stephen, around half of the homes in the area were significantly damaged. That said, he is confident that people will rebuild quickly. Talking about his old neighbors, Stephen said “if you give these people what they need, they’ll do it themselves.” He reported seeing old friends using chainsaws to open up streets and get around. Resilience is vital, but that resilience will need to be coupled with action on the part of the insurers who serve Panama City. Hurricane damage is costly, roof damage especially so. Combined with fewer contractors in the area than you might find in major metropolitan areas, Stephen predicts that it will be not be an easy recovery for his old neighbors. Still, he has no doubt that they’re up to the task.
“These are proud folk up here,” he said.
We’re proud of our colleague’s heartfelt and tireless efforts to help his hometown. Additionally, we wish the best of luck to the people of Panama City as they rebuild their homes and neighborhoods.
To read the Daily Business Review article in its entirety, click here.