In the days following the powerful arrival of Hurricane Michael, the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA) stepped into action.
As a non-profit organization, the group was in a position to accept donations made to the city of Mexico Beach, which sat at ground zero for the storm, sustaining widespread and catastrophic damage.
“We quickly added a fourth mission to our bylaws, aiding the local area in disaster recovery,” said Carol Cox, MBARA treasurer.
To date, the organization has raised over $60,000.
Every penny goes directly to the city for projects such as cleaning the canal, building a new pavilion at the canal, a new fire station, road repair, dune walkovers and landscaping, to name a few.
The city will use the MBARA-raised funds as matching funds for larger grants.
Every $5,000 the city received has the potential to be turned into $100,000, Cox noted.
And just before Christmas, the organization disbursed an initial $25,000 to Mayor Al Cathey.
The MBARA campaign expanded, though, as the weeks went along, joining with the Never Forgotten Coast campaign.
Alex and Chelsea Workman, a husband and wife creative team in Tallahassee, created the campaign in the days following Michael.
Chelsea’s father is a small-business owner in Mexico Beach; the couple said they saw his struggle and that of many other community members trying to recover.
“We knew we had to help,” Alex Workman said.
Working with Tallahassee designer Jesse Taylor, they designed a logo for the project and began printing and selling merchandise online and through pop-up shops to raise money to aid recovery efforts.
Joined by Nashville photographer Jeremy Cowart and Tallahassee drone pilot Jonathan Smith, the Workmans also set out to tell the stories of Mexico Beach and put faces “to the city that has been a home and destination for people all over the world,” Alex said.
The stories, of folks like Nate Odum, Justin and Alyson Gerlach, Chuck Guilford and many more, along with photos, are found online at NeverForgottenCoast.com.
Visitors to the site have the opportunity to purchase merchandise, such as T-shirts, and otherwise donate to the recovery effort.
“Our organization, the only non-profit of its kind in Mexico Beach, is proud to partner with Never Forgotten Coast to help families and businesses impacted in our community,” Cox said.
“This community is strong and resilient, but we will need all the resources available to recover from this absolutely devastating storm.”
The money raised by Never Forgotten Coast, and thus far the amount exceeds $11,000, will be used by non-profits in Mexico Beach to provide mini-grants to small businesses and individuals to help cover what insurance will not, Alex said.
“Our goal is to help the local economy get back up and running so that locals can get back to work and return to their normal lives,” Alex said. “If we can provide opportunities to shop, eat and do business, then we can speed up the rebuilding process and help the community recover.
“Even something seemingly small, like a micro-grant, can have significant impact on the region’s economic recovery. Mexico Beach is filled with character and they have the grit and determination to rebuild better than before.”
Cox noted that visitors to MBARA’s website can also donate to the Never Forgotten Coast.
She added that while the folks at MBARA are anxious to get out in the Gulf and check on storm impacts to artificial reefs, “we feel the need to help our community recover before we can get back into full operations.”