Alpharetta opens arms to hurricane’s displaced

City, volunteers establish facility to take in visitors



ALPHARETTA, Ga. – While all of Georgia braced for fallout from Hurricane Irma this week, local churches and cities took steps to accommodate those fleeing the storm from the south.

The City of Alpharetta opened its Wills Park Community Center Saturday as a limited service shelter to house evacuees escaping the hurricane.

By Sunday afternoon, the center had received 49 people. That number climbed to 65 by Monday morning when the storm’s outer bands reached North Fulton.

“It’s my understanding we’re the only shelter in Fulton County that has space right now,” said Christine Young, Community Center supervisor.

The center received 21 visitors Saturday night and another 18 mid-afternoon Sunday. Another 19 came in overnight.

Volunteers spent the weekend setting up floor mats in the gym and tables in adjoining rooms to help provide basic needs for those seeking refuge from the devastation in Florida and southern Georgia.

“Those fleeing from this powerful storm are facing some of the worst moments of their lives,” said Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle. “Many have been forced to begin this exodus with no firm destination or housing confirmed, so it is important that we provide aid and comfort in their time of need.”

The city staffed the center with a police officer, paramedic and emergency medical technician and a facility manager at all times during shelter operations.

Full bathroom and shower facilities were made available.

Young said many volunteers stopped by over the weekend to help arrange the facility for the emergency and employees from the Parks and Recreation Department provided plenty of assistance.

“We’re kind of off the beaten path, but the hotels are full up clear up to Dawsonville,” she said. “We do want to be able to house people if need be.”

Belle Isle said he was gratified by the show of support from the community, including the local YMCA.

Scott Doll, executive director of the Ed Isakson YMCA, helped coordinate charitable food donations from local groups and businesses. Food and meal donations came pouring in as early as Sunday and continued through Tuesday. Donors included Alpharetta First Baptist Church, Alpharetta Presbyterian Church, Bagel Boys, Chick-Fil-A at Avalon, Zaxby’s on Old Milton Parkway, Publix on Ga. 9 and Crust Pasta & Pizzeria. The center also drew donations from neighboring Roswell businesses, including Trader Joe’s and Sprouts.

“Everyone is really pulling together here,” Young said.

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