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Seaside Institute: Recovery and Restoration

The Seaside Institute Hurricane Michael Relief Fund donated $7,500 to the Sonder Project, a Walton County group that aims to help people affected by the storm. The fund will remain open for donations through Jan. 31 when the institute will revisit how to assist victims of the hurricane in a long-term manner. Pictured are Seaside Institute Board Co-Chair Victoria Lee, Seaside founders Daryl and Robert Davis, The Sonder Project Director of U.S. Operations Kim Catellier, Seaside Institute Board Co-Chair Larry Davis and Seaside Institute Executive Director Beth Carr.

In October, Hurricane Michael devastated many in our community and especially our neighbors to the east in Bay, Washington, Jackson, Holmes and Gulf counties. Although our small part of the world in South Walton did not suffer the depth of destruction our neighboring counties experienced, we have all been affected by it.

The leadership of the Seaside Institute contracted with FEMA expert Laura Clemons of Collaborative Communities Management Company, LLC. We had the opportunity to tour some of the more devastated areas. Seeing the destruction first hand has left an indelible impression on each of us along with the realization that we must do more than raise money.

What we at the Seaside Institute learned is just how much is not known, on how to recover after a disaster. The “rules” of recovery are not simple and unfortunately, our need to return to a sense of normalcy is counter to how recovery systems work in reality. Our determination to get back to normal is much more than repairing the damage to buildings and roads. It’s navigating the nuances of insurance, finances and government support. Finding housing, food and clothing, filling out forms and getting medications can be challenging on a good day, more so while you are in shock after losing most, if not all of what you own. Sadly finding some sense of normalcy in a situation that is anything but normal can be more stressful than the main event itself.

As a society we are generally reactive. We don’t like to think about unpleasant events that may affect us so significantly. Someone must though, otherwise, those in the immediacy of the destruction will not recover fully, if at all. Regardless of the challenges, we are not alone. Events such as this tend to bring people together; through damage and recovery, many are moved to aid our neighbors and have done so.

The Seaside Institute created the Hurricane Michael Relief Fund and has raised significant funds from the community, our partners and members. Thank you to all who have donated for your generosity. All the money raised (less credit card fees) is going directly to local families to provide help in rebuilding homes that have been damaged so that families have a safe place to live.

Hurricane Michael has disrupted our lives, but we continue to move forward.

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