In midst of conflict, moments of unity emerge from storm

In midst of conflict, moments of unity emerge from storm
The Albany Chain Gang works to clear debris from Hurricane Michael. (Source: WALB)

By Jill Nolin, CNHI State Reporter

ATLANTA – Georgia’s electorate may be as divided as it’s ever been, but even in the midst of a bitter dispute over who will lead Georgia, there were glimpses of what is becoming a rarer sight in politics today: unity.

Ballots were still trickling in for the nationally watched governor’s race as state lawmakers hashed out a nearly $500 million plan to stabilize southwest Georgia in the wake of Hurricane Michael. That proposal found overwhelming bipartisan support in both Chambers.

“We’re at a very crucial and pivotal point in southwest Georgia,” Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, a Democrat from Dawson whose sprawling district was in Michael’s path, said to her Senate colleagues.

“There are instances when we really do feel lost and thrown away,” Sims said. “But I always remind my folk that you have a legislature that cares, you have an executive branch that cares, and we’re going to be made whole again.”

Back in southwest Georgia, there were stories of farmers helping to clear roads even while pecan trees were toppled over on their farms. Those who were fortunate enough to have power offered a warm meal or shower. Generators were also passed around from family to family.

“The people of south Georgia came together after this storm or during this storm as we always do,” said Sen. Greg Kirk, a Republican from Americus.

Even within state agencies, it was a time to set side differences.

When the state’s Division of Family and Children Services was flooded with requests for disaster food stamps, the employees from the child welfare side raised money to buy their colleagues snacks, coffee and meals to help them power through the long work days. Nearly 39,000 families applied for the aid.

The two sides at the division have very different missions: One manages the distribution of public benefits. The other oversees the needs of the children in state care.

Keith Bostick, who is deputy director of child welfare, said he hoped the small gesture would show some love during a difficult time – especially as some of the staffers experienced their own losses at home.

“It was just one way of sharing with our staff that we care about you, it’s the right way that we ought to treat each other, and it was also done in a time of thanksgiving,” Bostick said.

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