As one of my country heroes Merle Haggard brilliantly penned "If we make it through December we'll be fine". I certainly hope so. It has been nearly two months since the Florida was stuck by Hurricane Michael. The storm completely destroyed Mexico Beach, and severely damaged Panama City as well as several rural communities. I never thought in all my life that everything could be changed in a matter of a few hours. But, it has. Panama City has been my home for all my life and now the place I know and love is for lack of a better word "gone". The majority of people I know either need a roof, a fence, electrical work, tree removal or a new house all together! Not to mention most of the businesses in Panama City are no longer operational and need some time to make repairs and some businesses are closed forever. Housing is among one of the most serious issues the residents of Panama City are facing. Thousands were illegally evicted from rental properties and many have been rejected for assistance by FEMA. To shed some light on the darkness I have seen more help from the community than by any federal agency. The Red Cross, Salvation Army and various groups from all over the country have come and helped the community with repairs and clearing their yards of debris. To my friends who have helped you know who you are and I am forever grateful for your love and kindness.
We have made progress but it will take years before this area is close to recovery. The change in the landscape alone is shocking. I now see the sunrise and sunset more than ever before because 90% of the trees are gone. I never thought I would be heart broken over trees. It is also a much colder winter than some years previous. There are people still living in tents and are being told to move in just a few days. The shelters are closed and public empathy has faded. We are old news. But, we are a resilient community and we will get through this as hard as it may be. There are wonderful people in the community gathering donations to ensure the children have a nice Christmas and families are fed. This Friday I am so excited to take part in a fundraiser called, "Rising TIdes" which will be at Monet Monet Gardens in Grayton beach. I'll be playing my songs and there will also be many great local bands performing inside and out. This fundraiser is to help artists affected by Hurricane Michael.
I believe the power of music brings healing. It evokes joy when none can be found and I believe it is my civic and ethical duty to play music for anyone hurting from this crisis. So I am excited to take part in Christmas caroling in St. Andrew on December 21st with The Wabi Sabis, and Caliope Pettis! Floriopolis which is a local community art center and gallery will also be hosting an open jam at the St. Andrew Civic club December 25th at 7pm. I will definitely be there eager to play music with anyone who shows up with an instrument or would like to sing. Everyone is welcome to bring games, artsy things to share and leftover treats for all of us to share. When we pull together our light shines bright and the warmth resonates to all of us. Together we are 850 Strong as many have proudly proclaimed throughout the community. It is my Christmas wish that for just one day everyone is able to enjoy their families and reflect on the blessings we do have. There is no reason to suffer alone this Christmas, please come join us in St. Andrew for the fantastic community events planned. Let's find the joy and love together and rise from the ashes stronger than ever. To all my friends, fans, and family, Happy Holidays!