Wiregrass churches act as safe havens for Irma Evacuees

"I came in and I was the first one. I’m the only one here.. with the workers", said Shirley Gerhart, a St. Petersburg resident. "I came in and I was the first one. I’m the only one here.. with the workers", said Shirley Gerhart, a St. Petersburg resident.

Shirley Gerhart was the first evacuee taken in at Heritage Baptist church, now she's one of about 140 people staying here. Her journey was anything but easy evacuating her condo, than running into a slew of problems including not finding a place to stay on her way up to Dothan. St. Petersburg is about 400 miles from Dothan but even still others had a much longer journey.

"The people that I’ve met here are from Naples, they’re from Miami, the Keys", said Gerhart.

One such person was Katherine Murillo and her family. They traveled for 27 miles trying to find a place to stay. Eventually what happen was Murillo and her family where in a Walmart parking lot with no place to go. They asked around and were able to settle on Heritage Baptist church.

"It was almost 27 hours. Basically when we heard we needed to evacuate what we did was we grabbed the car and we started to hitting the road", said Murillo.

Westgate Church of Christ was pretty much filled to capacity with 50 people, within hours of opening Friday. Heritage Baptist filled up quickly too. Westgate Church of Christ was the first shelter to open up, with Heritage Baptist following closely behind. And after opening, it wasn’t long before filling up some of the empty spaces.

"The first night we ended up with about 137 guests staying with and that was just within a matter of time. Tonight we're looking at probably the same about 136. Our designated max capacity is about 140”, said Linda Bright, the Missions Coordinator.



 
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