The Forgotten County: How Michael Remains In Greenwood

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Greenwood’s only grocery store—The Greenwood Supermarket caught fire after Hurricane Michael. Now, the small town is a food desert and neighbors can’t afford fresh food due to recovery costs from the storm. Help is coming as concerned neighbors band together and organize food giveaways—But they say it’s not enough. The lines for these giveaways are already hours long.

History Destroyed

In Jackson County, Greenwood is a small town nestled between Marianna and Malone. Civil War-era homes dot the roadside, the Hayes, Erwin, and Great Oaks houses being the most notable. Now, some of these historic buildings, like Christina Jeter’s are damaged due to Michael. She says her childhood home was built in 1856. She bought the house after her father passed away. “We started doing some remodeling to it but everything we’ve put into it is destroyed,” Jeter says.

A tree rests on the roof of a home.
One year after Hurricane Michael, a tree still rests on the roof of Christina Jeter’s home. She says the only room safe to sleep in is underneath the tree.

Jeter lost her job as a caretaker after the hurricane and can’t afford to repair the home. One of the trees collapsed on her house and she says mold has invaded almost every room. Contractors are quoting her $10,000 to remove the tree. It’s a hefty price for someone who now works as a roofer. Jeter has been living with no air conditioning for the past year. “We didn’t even have electricity for months. We lived without running water for I don’t even know how long,” says Jeter.

Greenwood Florida is a Food Desert

Empty and burned shelves and counters in a store. The roof is also damaged.
The Greenwood Supermarket after the fire. It used to have a deli where residents could buy hot food.

Greenwood has no restaurants, no gas stations, and for the past year—no grocery store. The supermarket caught fire after the storm. The owners applied for a loan in January, but the flames burned all their paperwork and it’s slowed the approval process. “It’s that down home mom and pop store that you don’t find much anymore,” says the store’s manager Tiffany Money. “There’s a lot of elderly in this community and then we have two state facilities and a federal facility right here that all got lunch from here and got their groceries on the way home and lots of little businesses that relied on us to get what they need,” says Money.

The nearest grocery store is a 10-minute drive, but many cars were destroyed or damaged in the hurricane. So folks like Jeter have had to shop at the Dollar General but it doesn’t stock fresh produce. “It’s basically if you want anything, want something to drink, you want sugar, you want toilet paper, you want anything that you’re out of you either walk or beg for a ride and you can only ask for a ride so many times before it becomes a burden to somebody else,” Jeter says.

It’s about a 45-minute walk to the Dollar General for Jeter and the path is treacherous. Cars and trucks zoom by and there’s not much sidewalk. April Garrett’s family has made that trek from their home to the Dollar General as well. A tree fell on her car during the hurricane and she can’t afford to get it fixed.  

Garrett says the walk was horrible. “It was highly embarrassing because people would see them on the side of the road and sometimes they would be kind enough to bring them home but it just made it really hard,” says Garrett. 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

People stand among opened boxes of food.
Volunteers gathered at the Greenwood Community Park on September 6th to give out food. Second Harvest of the Big Bend’s Deontre Jones says he brought 9,776 pounds of food for Greenwood.

Missy Harcus is a recent retiree from Jacksonville, Florida. After Michael, she went knocking door to door to find out how her neighbors were faring. Harcus says she was shocked to find out that so many of her neighbors were in poverty. These days, Harcus says she puts in 30 – 40 hours-worth of phone calls a week to organize food giveaways in Greenwood. “It’s hard. It’s been very hard. You know? Us trying to support this community just as a volunteer base alone and without having any help from the government and it’s just us doing it ourselves to make between thirty, forty hours-worth of phone calls a week just to get some food in,” Harcus says.

“I believe we are the forgotten county.”

Anita Crawford, Greenwood resident
People stand near a giant crate full of sweet potatoes and dig their hands into it.
Volunteers prepare to give out bags of sweet potatoes before the donation line starts moving.

Harcus has been in touch with IKIC Inc. founder Hardy Hill, who reached out to Line in the Sand foundation’s Brian Padgett. WFSU told Padgett’s story back in January after he set up his BBQ stand titled, “Jarheadz.” He fed Port St. Joe’s hurricane survivors. His stand was present during Greenwood’s September 6th food giveaway. Second Harvest of the Big Bend showed up for the giveaway, offering 9,776 pounds of food. Watermelons, sweet potatoes, canned green beans, and more were given out to those who waited in line at the Greenwood Community Park. Cars snaked around the premise and some were parked on the roadside. I found Anita Crawford waiting in her car at the tail-end of the line. She says there’s nothing left of her house. “I believe we are the forgotten county. Jackson county. Especially Greenwood,” says Crawford.

A person wearing sunglasses looks at the camera
Anita Crawford waits at the tail-end of the line to receive food donations at the Greenwood Community Park. She says her house was leveled by Michael.

What Now?

Missy Harcus says she will continue to organize food and clothing giveaways for Greenwood, but she’s always looking for help. If you’re interested in learning more about how to help Greenwood, you can go to the Jaco Angel’s Hurricane Relief Facebook page.