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Our Never Forgotten Coast, Always On Our Mind

Debbie Kirkland

Debbie Kirkland started First Story Real Estate Company because she saw a need for radical changes in the real estate space...

Debbie Kirkland started First Story Real Estate Company because she saw a need for radical changes in the real estate space...

Dec 31 9 minutes read

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

The first post of 2019 is certainly one I hope lasts throughout the year. The work has just begun. 

Our coastal area is unlike any other area in the world. Lifestyles are laid back, residents enjoy a low-key, stress-free life. People put in an honest day’s work and weekenders escape to blue waters, warm sun and sugar fine white sand to recharge, reflect and rejuvenate. We enjoy every chance to showcase the Forgotten Coast area to visitors when they consider an investment in this lifestyle that is like no other.

On October 10th, the 3rd largest storm in US History, Hurricane Michael, made landfall along the Forgotten Coast of Florida. The storm affected hundreds of thousands of people from the Gulf Coast across the Southeastern United States. Lives were forever changed. 

As I observed national reports and hung on conversations with family and friends while attending a conference in Boston, my heart sank for the second time in a year, and I began reliving the helplessness I felt after Hurricane Harvey all over again. First, it was feeling helpless for my daughter and son-in-law and their community. This time, it was my backyard. A storm of unprecedented power was raging across homes of loved ones, of friends and of fellow business owners and I felt a world away. 

I can only describe my emotions with words that come to mind are hopelessness, fright, sickness, disbelief. When I returned, what I witnessed along with the rest of America, via TV and digital networks affected me deeply as it did for many. People deployed to begin helping those affected immediately but few were allowed in, many even locked out with no access. Thousands were on standby waiting to return, to see what remained of their life’s possession and years of business building efforts. While donating essentials, offering to help families relocate to our area for a time, it constantly remains on my mind that there are years more of work to do. For me, I was reliving an experience just over a year ago, as my daughter’s and son-in-law’s home-town of Rockport, Texas. Hit by the eye of Hurricane Harvey twice on August 26, 2017, Rockport was in the eye of the storm as it circled back for two passes over the town. Just a month before Hurricane Michael was threatening Florida, I had returned to visit Rockport.  I was grateful to have seen some recovery taking place.  Local businesses that were coming back, people trickling back to the area, residents rebuilding, still. One year later, Rockport felt different, looked different and damage was still noticeable on every street, at every turn. The FEMA trucks, the food and supply support were gone, but still present were blue tarps covered roofs, remaining empty lots, trees snapped and stripped of vegetation are just beginning to show signs of new growth. Without the support of small businesses there, I am certain their progress would have not recovered even to this point. Alex and Chelsea Workman had been a big support for me through that time. 

The eye of Hurricane Michael hit the Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe area, hard, fast and unforgiving. Mexico Beach has been a second home/vacation spot for my son-in-law’s family for years. My daughter and son-in-law were survivors in Rockport, Texas. To have been hit a second time in 15 months was like a double punch to every emotion he, and all of us felt as we watched Hurricane Michael rage over the area. Our contractor’s family home there was destroyed, a cousin’s home and business were reduced to rubble, belongings lost to wind, flood waters and tossed far away, never to be recovered. A high-school friend’s in-laws barely escaped over 6 feet of rising water, surviving only by floating out in a hot tub, living through flying debris, waves, obstacles in the water surrounding them. The stories just go on and on. Many of our friends and family members, fellow Realtors and favorite restaurants, businesses, hotels, parks and recreation areas and amazing beaches were affected, many of which may not recover. One trip to the coast after restrictions had been lifted, I could see we needed to do something more but was overwhelmed as to what to do first. 

When Alex and Chelsea Workman told me about the Never Forgotten Coast project and their work to raise funds for the microgrants that will be used to help businesses get back on their feet and begin operations that will help this community rise again, I knew this was where I could help. I sponsored without hesitation because I knew their works would reach much further than mine, and thankfully they have been successful. The stories of business owners in the area are heart-breaking but convey their undeniable messages of hope. That is what we will continue to support. Hope.

The work will not be over for a long time, that I know, but maybe, just maybe, people will be reminded to continue to give, to help in some way whether it’s one person, one donation, or many. We won’t forget, and maybe our job is just to remind people that there is still work to be done, people to be helped. Maybe that is what this post will do, simply remind people to be kind, generous, to give whatever they can for a long time to come. Century 21 First Story Real Estate will continue to help those in need in some way. We are here for the long term. Because we know our coastal area is precious, we will support businesses and residents as often as possible. We hope you will too.

Debbie Kirkland. Broker |Century 21 First Story Real Estate|316 Wiliams St.|Tallahassee, FL 32303

Stories of

Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in October 2018 and left the town of Mexico Beach, FL completely devastated. A team of storytellers from Tallahassee, FL partnered with individuals and entities from around the country to do something to help. Through purchasing apparel and generous donations from people like you, we can help get their community back up and running. Read their stories. Buy a shirt. Give. Together, we can make sure they’re never forgotten. 

The Partners in the Project:

About The Workmans

The Workmans are a husband and wife creative team in Tallahassee, FL. Alex and Chelsea have a heart for helping organizations tell their story. They married 2014 and moved to Tallahassee, FL shortly after. Having to be very intentional about learning to love their new city, they developed a community project called Aerial Tallahassee, telling the story of Tallahassee from the sky. In 2016, they started The Workmans, a company focused on commercial photography & creating short films for businesses, organizations, agencies and individuals, equipping them to better tell their story. Through exploring their community and documenting many stories, in 2017, The Workmans began capturing portraits and telling the stories of many of the refugee families who fled for their lives and now call Tallahassee home, through a series called #RefugeesofTLH.

Alex and Chelsea have two sons. They love spending time together as a family and exploring their community, especially through food and coffee.


About Jeremy Cowart

Named the “Most Influential Photographer on the Internet” by Huffington Post, Forbes and Yahoo in 2014, Jeremy Cowart is an award- winning photographer, artist, and entrepreneur whose goal in life is to use his creative platform to inspire and help others. Jeremy is a sought-after speaker, having presented at TEDx, the United Nations and creative conferences across the country. His latest endeavor is The Purpose Hotel, a planned global for-profit hotel chain designed to fuel the work of not-for-profit organizations. He’s also the founder of a global photography movement, Help-Portrait and an online teaching platform, See University. His new book “I’m Possible” is coming soon at He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife and four children.

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