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Comfort Station Mood Reflects Irma's Glancing Blow

James Clarke Ash

The mood was surprisingly upbeat among Hurricane Irma survivors who trekked to the Leroy Collins Library to charge cell phones and laptops and stock up on bottled water.

Leon County and Tallahassee opened post storm comfort stations as a direct result of Hurricane Hermine’s extended power outages last summer.

His neck encased in a foam collar and head covered by a baseball cap, Jon Goldfarb is in good spirits as he fills a goodie bag with snack food.

The disabled veteran caught a city bus to the main library to recharge his cell phone and get something to nibble on until the power returns to his Old St. Augsutine Road neighborhood.

Like many locals, Goldfarb’s home escaped damage and he is feeling lucky.

“It’s part of life. I live in Florida. Deal with it. I’m ex-military. I’m used to hard work and doing things…If you live in Kansas, there’s going to be tornados. If you live in Florida, there’s going to be hurricanes. It’s just part of it.”

Behind Goldfarb sits a series of folding picnic tables covered with a sea of single-serving chips, cookies, apple sauce and nearly every other snack food imaginable. Cases of bottled water line one wall. CNN blares from a large screen TV.

Leon Human Services Director Shington Lamy greets every comer. He says a few people were waiting when the doors opened and a few hours later, the stream is steady. 

“We’ve gotten about a little over 100, close to 150 people here, yeah, since we opened at 9 a.m. this morning. A few folks have been in here since they still don’t have power.”

Volunteer Kathleen Power is behind one table offering a weary but  comforting smile and a patient ear. The Tallahassee physical therapist rode Irma out in a Red Cross shelter in the Rickards High School gym, sharing pizza and sandwiches with 500 other evacuees.

Power said spirits were high and she wanted to pass the feeling along.

“We slept in the cafeteria. I had brought my sleeping bag. But the provided blankets and mats for people who did not bring accommodations. So it was very, very hospitable.”

The station at the main library on West Park Avenue was scheduled to remain open until 7 p.m. and supplies came compliments of Second Harvest food bank. The city sponsored similar comfort stations at the Tallahassee Senior Center and five community centers.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.