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Florida town finds reason to give thanks in aftermath of Hurricane Michael

Posted at 11:39 AM, Nov 22, 2018
and last updated 2019-10-02 15:59:10-04

MEXICO BEACH, FL (CNN/RNN) – Hurricane Michael slammed Florida’s panhandle last month as Category 4 storm.

It’s 155 mph winds devastated Mexico Beach.

In the weeks since, plenty of folks have stepped up to help, but two men in particular have helped bring a sense of community to one torn apart.

"There was a building here, I promise. It was called Killer Seafood,” said restaurant co-owner Michael Scoggins.

The pain is still fresh.

"I kind of knew walking down the street from my house here, that it wasn't going ... to be … good,” Scoggins said, pausing with emotion.

Hal Summers was his general manager. Because of the storm, he lost his job and his home.

Both men could have wallowed in self-pity and left town, but, instead, they decided to help as only they could. They cooked.

In a church parking lot, amidst the roar of generators and the smoke of a grill, they began feeding first responders and residents - three times a day, seven days a week.

They call the tent where it all happens Camp Happy Tummies.

In the weeks since Michael, it has come to mean much more than a meal. It has become a focal point for the town.

"It's a safe place to cry, a safe place to let your feelings out," said Linda Albrecht, a Mexico Beach councilwoman. "Everybody has a feeling that they are all in this together. Everybody appreciates how each person is pitching in."

At the tables under the tent, the community has prayed, mourned the dead and even held a wedding reception. Scoggins and Summers baked a cake for the newlyweds.

It became a place where folks could temporarily escape from the devastation just outside.

But with clean-up crews making progress and utilities coming back online, Camp Happy Tummies will fold up its tent and cook one last meal for the community – Thanksgiving dinner.

In the month since the hurricane, people here have stopped looking for reasons to be sad and are finding reasons to rejoice.

In Mexico Beach, they have come to learn that every day is Thanksgiving Day.

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