There is a passage in the Bible about those who help themselves.
A vast majority of Gulf County residents seem to have the concept embedded in their DNA.
In the days following Hurricane Michael, hardly a conversation, north and south, began that didn’t include pride, defiance, and resiliency, and a sense of village that must be seen to be fully understood.
“I am humbled just to see it,” said long-time resident Kesley Colbert.
Colbert’s home received minor damage, some downed limbs, but there were neighbors, with far worse situations, helping clean his yard the next morning.
Yes, there were imbeciles who chose to further people’s misery by looting homes and businesses in the first days after Michael’s arrival.
But they were by far the exception to the rule.
There were those who grabbed chainsaws and went immediately to work clearing trees and limbs from roads, driveways and homes.
Others organized excursions to Alabama or other points east to stock up on gas for generators, food, water and other supplies, willing to divvy their bounty with anyone in need.
“Team Scout About,” as they called themselves, was one, and only one, such group.
Their efforts are worth mentioning individual shout-outs.
Scooter Acree, Ronnie Stevens, Jonathan Brown, Ashley Haddock, Henry Kirby, Michael Foster, Mike Chapman, Cameron Brown, Wade Guilford, Chris James, Christian Fisher, Brandon Harrison, Irene Acree;
Clint Moore, Kevin Quaranta, Jenny Acree, Kassidy Acree, Katie Acree, Keith Jenkins, Florence Jenkins, Bryan Jenkins, Heather Jenkins, J.J. Gainer, Wilkin Lane, T.J. Layfield, Richard Dean, Brandon Bellew and enlistees from Louisiana calling themselves “The Cajun Navy.”
Each morning in the days after the storm, despite individual hardships, “team” members donned gloves and chainsaws, winches and whatever else was needed and went to work, cutting and clearing dozens of trees.
They also took to boats to assist in house-to-house searches on St. Joseph Peninsula.
Other “team” members were on the road to stock larders.
And they continued into this week, helping to put tarps on roofs and provide protection for damaged homes.
All for folks, in many cases, they did not know before Michael brought them together.
“Everybody is just coming together, helping each other,” said St. Joe Beach resident Terese Kent. “People are helping to feed each other, clear their yards. “That is something to write about.”
Impromptu stations, from Cape San Blas Road to the CVS in Port St. Joe, were established on roadsides and parking lots with water and other non-perishables for anybody who needed them.
Despite taking extensive water into the store, George Duren opened his Piggly Wiggly the day after Michael’s arrival.
Employees donned miner’s hats and if you brought a shopping list and cash to them, into the dark they went to fill a cart.
Perishables were given away free and other items went out at reduced prices.
Duren continued the curbside business until power was restored to the store.
At that point, Duren stripped the shelves of perishables; the deli, dairy, bakery and meat sections were emptied, the items, several hundred thousand dollars worth, trashed.
They were restocked as shipments arrived.
“God bless, you,” resident Dave Motil said to Duren upon encountering him in the store shortly after power had been restored.
Beginning the day after Michael, Port St. Joe Elementary School became a hub for essential supplies.
Sonny’s provided chicken dinners. Pallets of meals-ready-to-eat, water and ice were available.
And almost daily, new outposts of relief popped, at the Washington Recreation Center, Centennial Bank, two auto parts stores, the Haughty Heron and the First Baptist Church, its roof gone.
Peppers served meals, another downtown business offered hot dogs and hamburgers off the grill one day and, early on, the fire houses in Port St. Joe and South Gulf County became havens for assistance.
That is just a sampling.
And in addition to supplies, all the volunteers, most of whom suffering personal losses, offered smiles, concern, kind words.
It was uplifting at a time when uplifting was badly needed.
And all of it was before more than 1,000 workers from outside the county arrived by the weekend after Michael, taking up the task of taking down trees and limbs, repairing downed wires and restoring services.
Pharmacies opened, Ace Hardware did also, banks got to business, the health department established a gas station and it seemed, at least if you didn’t observe the scenery, things were returning to normal.
“I can’t believe how efficient they’ve been with clearing everything and restoring power,” said Indian Pass resident Peter Burgher six days after Michael. “And everybody seems to be happy about it.
“I waited in line for an hour at the bank to make a deposit and everybody was just oh, well, no problem.’”
The progress initiated by the folks of Gulf County continued, fueled by an attitude of rectitude uncommon in a community.
“This is our town, our family, our friends,” said Port St. Joe City Manager Jim Anderson. “This is more than a job.”