“My dad and father-in-law bought the gas station six years ago. My dad was sick for a long time and died in 2017. I lived in Ocean Springs and my wife and I moved back here and took over the gas station. God put us here for a reason and I am understanding more about that this week. It is not just a gas station, we are here to serve our community. is an honor beyond anything I can imagine. After Hurricane Sally hit, we were the first place people stopped to get help. One woman even swam out of her house on Fish River before she got here.
The devastation is bad in the Marlow area. A lot of veterans and elderly live in mobile homes. Trees fell through the middle of their homes and we went out with tarps to try and protect what is inside. They lack transportation, especially the elderly. Thirty to forty percent had trees on their car. They are pulling into the gas station with dents and busted windshields. I don’t think people out here understand the resources available. Those resources for recovery are also in Foley, Fairhope, and Robertsdale. That is too far away for people out here who can’t just hop in the car and go. We need the resources, including FEMA and the Red Cross, to come here and meet people where they are. They can set up in the gas station parking lot.
Before Sally, we served more than 1,000 people a day. We see what is happening. People have been fighting COVID for six months and were already down and struggling. Mom or dad had to stay home and care for the kids when there was no school. They lost the income that made ends meet. Staying safe and providing is a hard line, now they are facing this. Sometimes they don’t have money for gas. We cooked and served meals from here when COVID first started and tried to help them eat.
COVID separated us and kept us from interacting because we were scared. This hurricane became a time to put that aside. God is in control and it is time to mend this land. These things have happened to you, me, and all of us.
Sally hit the gas station hard. The gas pumps were blown out and we can’t save the canopy. We had 12 inches of water in the store. We had been renovating for six months and were 75 percent complete. We are tearing everything out and trying to reopen as fast as we can. My employees are working 16 hours a day to help us clean. We gave away everything in the store to feed people who had no food. We brought pallets of ice and water and gave them away. We are becoming a place to give people the help they need.
Our customers are also taking care of us and are constantly stopping by to check in. One cut a tree off the power line for free. A man I didn’t know cleared the red dirt that was washing into the store with a backhoe and took it to another property that washed out. I still don’t know his name.
Today in our parking lot, a church gave out cleaning supplies. Two other groups cooked and gave out free hot dogs. The people kept coming. Some hadn’t eaten in a couple of days. It was overwhelming and heartwarming because many people don’t even know we are out here. This little corner provided for a lot people today and gave them happiness. We must keep this up and find ways to help this community recover.”