Families in Midway took a break Friday to have some fun and get away from all the hurricane fuss.
Midway Middle School and Liberty Elementary combined to put on the event at the middle school of fun and games for families on the east side of Liberty County. There were hamburgers, hot dogs, snacks, basketball, games, toys, giveaways and the highlight—a big inflatable slide.
Midway Middle School Principal Debra Frazier said the purpose of the event is to get students in the mindset of going back to school Monday.
"We came together on Wednesday and said let’s provide a meal, provide activities for the kids and get them away from this depressed environment," Frazier said. "All they see is trees down and poles down. Let’s get them re-acclimated, get them away and have some free time. And then we partnered with Liberty Elementary."
Cristina Dover, MMS media specialist, came up with the idea for the event. Her husband works at Water Utility Management and told her about the damaged homes and roads from the hurricane, especially at Lake George. She said her family made it through the storm and knew there were students who were not as fortunate.
"We wanted to do something for the parents, let the kids play and provide a meal," Dover said. "Sixty percent of our students are on free or reduced lunch and school is sometimes the only place they eat. So with the hurricane, some of them were not able to eat at all."
The event allowed families to eat and also take home necessities. School staff, local businesses, teachers and churches donated food and essential relief items, such as cases of water, fruit, canned goods, non-perishable items, Girl Scout cookies, toiletries, paper towels, ice and board games for kids to take home.
Dover said they made food for about 900 people because of the schools population of both and students’ families.
Volunteers included teachers, staff and Fort Stewart soldiers.
Also on hand was Yolanda Sharpe, school social worker for Midway Middle, Liberty Elementary and Liberty County High School. She talked with parents about the McKinney-Vento program from the Department of Education that serves families in transition due to economic reasons. Sharpe said she was there to talk with families who may have been displaced by the storm, to offer resources and support.
Chris Anderson, principal of Liberty Elementary, said he was honored to be asked to partner with Midway Middle.
"It feels good to give back to the community and help return a sense of normalcy in preparation of Monday," Anderson said. "This is a token of appreciation for the community we serve. A lot of people had a rough week and we wanted to provide a sense of caring."
Mimi Ryan, an MMS parent, said the storm really showed the support of the local community and family.
The Tuesday before the storm, Ryan was attending a funeral in Philadelphia, while her kids stayed with their grandmother. Hurricane Matthew came through Coastal Georgia and her flight home was delayed. With the fierce storm and being away from her children, Ryan said she "really had to learn how to depend on family."
During her flight home, Ryan was able to see the devastation of the storm from the sky. She returned to her Lake George home and found no water or electricity. Her home did not sustain much damage, she said, only a few leaks and some siding pulled off.
Ryan does not have renter’s insurance to get reimbursed for spoiled food and does not receive food stamps. When she heard about the free lunch and activities she thought it was great way to give herself and family "a breather" from cleaning up.
"Everyone is tired of cleaning up. That’s why I’m thankful for all these teachers," she said. "I love Midway Middle and Liberty Elementary. The teachers are like my friends. Community is so important. Everybody helps everybody, especially with something like this. It’s a shame it took the storm for people to see it, but it’s actually been going on the whole time, just behind the scenes."
Ryan is originally from Philadelphia and said the feeling of community and support has kept her in Liberty. She has no intention of leaving anytime soon.
After the event leftover food and relief items were packed onto a truck and taken to families in Lake George.