ELBERTA - Like many Baldwin communities, Elberta found itself in worse shape than predicted after Hurricane Sally. Trees and limbs were down, the power was out, and people were in shock as they surveyed the damages.
There was one thing even a hurricane couldn’t destroy: the bond of the community.
“I want to thank everybody in the community,” said Mayor Jim Hamby. “We had the opportunity to show the weaker side of us, and we showed the stronger side of us. My phone rang off the hook from the hurricane, and with very few exceptions it was not somebody asking for help. It was somebody asking how they could help.”
By the weekend after the storm, crews from Atmore were in town, bringing three skid steers and 20 people to help clear debris from private properties and move it to the right of way for pickup. They were fed by the Elberta Police Department, who assisted in finding locations to clear debris. The crews went home that night, and were back the next morning with five skid steers and 40 people.
Another man who calls Elberta home showed up with a large grill and meat, cooking food to hand out to the community. He returned the next day to cook again.
“Well, the police had a bunch of meat and food that was donated by the Elberta Grocery Store to keep it from ruining, and the officers didn’t know how they were going to cook it all,” Hamby said. “Then there’s this big grill sitting out there, just God provided it for them, so they’re out there cooking and grilling. When the man came back the officers said they hoped he didn’t mind, and he was just proud that they got to use it … You could go to the park and you had a choice of what you wanted to eat! People weren’t being picky, but you had your choice because we had food grilling everywhere.”
In the days following the storm, Council member Steve Kirkpatrick and the volunteer firefighters set up distribution sites to hand out supplies to the community. When the demand became overwhelming, Kirkpatrick called to request assistance from the National Guard. Before they arrived, Councilmember Vicky Norris offered her assistance, bringing with her 20 high schoolers in the community who worked alongside the adults to give out supplies. The town police department pitched in their assistance, offering to deliver water and supplies to anyone who was in need. Outside assistance arrived via the Cajun Navy and other municipalities, ensuring the town received much-needed supplies.
In one day alone, over 1,500 citizens were given food and supplies at the distribution site.
“It’s just amazing how everybody has a different gift, everybody has a different talent,” Hamby said. “And they were all willing to come together to utilize those gifts and talents for the betterment of this community. Elberta doesn’t need anything, because we have everything.”