The 'Forgotten County': How Greenwood, Florida Is Still Feeling The Pain From Michael

Oct 10, 2019

Tree splits a house in two in Greenwood, Florida.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

Greenwood's only grocery store caught fire after Hurricane Michael. A year after the storm, it still hasn’t been replaced. The residents of the Jackson County city are banding together to assist elderly and low-income neighbors who can’t travel to find fresh food.

Feeling Left Behind

The line to get fresh produce is hours long at the food giveaway near the Greenwood Community Park. Volunteers plop watermelons and bags of sweet potatoes into car trunks while others hand out barbeque sandwiches—something Anita Crawford needs after her house was leveled by Michael. She’s waiting in her car at the tail-end of the line, which snakes around the premise.

Anita Crawford sits in her car as she waits to get food.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

“I believe we are the forgotten county, Jackson County, especially Greenwood,” she says.

That sentiment resounds with Christina Jeter, who’s been living with mold, no air conditioning and a fallen tree on her home since the storm.

“We didn’t even have electricity for months. We lived without running water for I don’t even know how long,” she says.

Jeter worked as a caregiver for a woman in Greenwood, but the woman passed away after the hurricane and Jeter has taken up roofing to get by. She says the Greenwood Supermarket was integral to the community.

“We don’t have a kitchen. So, if the deli was here we could have hot food every day."

Struggling To Rebound

You might miss Greenwood on your way to Marianna or Malone. The small town has no restaurants, no gas stations, and for the past year—no grocery store. The Greenwood Supermarket caught fire after the storm. The nearest grocery store is about 10 minutes away, but some like Jeter can’t make that drive because car repairs are expensive.

“Both of our vehicles are – one of them is on jack stands because it needs a part we can’t afford and we need new tires on a car that I just paid $500 for so I could have transportation,” Jeter says.

She’s had to live off the Dollar General but it doesn’t stock fresh produce. That’s prompted some neighbors to reach out to food banks like Second Harvest of the Big Bend. When Jeter doesn’t have these donations, she says she has to walk to the Dollar General.

No Gas, No Grocer, No Restaurants

The only room that doesn't have mold is the one underneath the fallen tree. Christina Jeter has been sleeping in that room since the storm.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

“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 for so many times before it becomes a burden to somebody else,” Jeter says.

It’s about a 45-minute walk and Jeter says the path is treacherous, “So there’s semis, peanut wagons and tractors, and all kinds of different vehicles that people don’t pay attention so it’s not safe to walk anyway.”

She’s not the only one making the trek. April Garrett lost her car when a tree toppled onto it during Michael. She says she can’t afford anymore repairs. Her husband has been out of a job because he couldn’t make it to work. 

“He was a nonstop worker. He worked every day. Never showed up—even on sick days he never not showed up for work. He was always there on time,” Garrett says. She’s had help from Missy Harcus, one of the key organizers of Greenwood’s food giveaways.

“Neighbors are helping neighbors get through it because we have no one else to count on but ourselves,” Harcus says. She’s been trying to rally help for Greenwood.

“It’s hard. It’s been very, 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.

Correction: The original version of this story listed the Greenwood Baptist Church as the site of the food giveaway. The food giveaway was actually held at the Greenwood Community Center.