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Marion County shows southern hospitality to Florida evacuees

Marion County shows southern hospitality to Florida evacuees (Image: WTVC)

We have been hearing countless stories of people in our area showing southern hospitality to Hurricane Irma evacuees. We headed to Marion County where we met evacuees wanting to say thank you to the local community.

Eric Joseph Cochran was born just two weeks ago. His family left the Tampa area seeking shelter in Kimball. Dakota Cochran says it was a scary situation, but they couldn't have picked a better place to land.

"We appreciate everybody, especially the locals for helping as much as they can," Dakota Cochran said. "I'm sure they've had long nights and long days doing everything they could possibly do, and if they could I'm sure they would do more so I'm just super thankful."

JD and Kim Genter own Maximum Fit in Kimball. They've been doing their part to help since they first learned about all the evacuees in their town. They hosted free meals at their gym, collected donations for evacuees and even dropped food and supplies off to hotels.

"You can't describe the feeling of helping people, I can't imagine what they're going through," said JD Genter. "You name it we're providing it, or trying to the best we can."

We were there as the couple said goodbye to the young family and handed them gas cards for the drive home to Florida.

"We just want to thank the community and our Max Fit family for stepping up," JD said. "We knew we had a great community but what they're doing is just overwhelming, it's over the top of what we could ever thought we could do for these people."

"Hearing their stories has touched my heart. I've cried with them as I've taken whatever it was they needed," Kim said.

Paulaann Slater is another evacuee from Florida. She called our station to say how appreciative she is of Tennesseans.

"They're phenomenal, along with treating everyone like they knew them 100 years and they were part of their family," Slater said. "I wish I could take this community home with me."

It took 24 hours for Paulaann and her husband to make the trip during the evacuation.

"I was concerned about getting a hotel so far out of a main drag like Chattanooga, but God put us in the best place possible here in Kimball, Tennessee."

What better way to show southern hospitality than with southern food, courtesy of the Western Sizzlin Steakhouse, SueBob's Diner, and local churches Jasper First Baptist and Castle Rock Baptist.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with you and we will see you tonight bringing some good fried chicken, best in the south," Spencer Wayne, general manager of the Western Sizzlin said. "I hope everybody enjoys that and we hope the sunshine is back in the Sunshine State as it belongs."

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