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Help is here: 6 schools open for meals, showers; Pilgrim's giving away ice
Community bands together as power outages continue
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Pilgrim's employee Juan Sanchez loads ice into coolers Thursday morning as the company gives away free ice to anyone who drops by with their cooler. - photo by Scott Rogers

Pulling trays of tater tots out of the kitchen Thursday afternoon, East Hall Middle School lunchroom manager Penny Whitmire had help from her staff and other school officials to feed the community still facing power outages.

Six Hall County middle schools opened Thursday evening and will offer free meals and shower facilities again today for those affected by Tropical Storm Irma.

“These people are loving people, and they like to take care of their own,” Whitmire said. “It’s normal for them.”

According to volunteers, 112 people received help from East Hall Middle School as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

Whitmire and fellow employees worked to serve chicken sandwiches, tater tots, pinto beans, plums, sliced apples, milk, sweet tea and water.

“(The teachers) know their students and they know their needs. They got together, emailed, Facebook-ed, got the word out that we need donations,” Whitmire said.

Groups went out to “the busy areas that have a lot of kids and actually handed out meals,” Whitmire said.

Heather Chandler said she and her family had been without power since Monday evening.

“Everyone was really nice and helpful,” she said of the people at the school.

Ray Ludwig, a member of Liberty Baptist Church, received a group message from his pastor about volunteering at the school, helping to bag food and clean.

“It’s just awesome,” he said. “That’s just the community we live in.”

Jackson EMC still had 2,800 customers in Hall County affected by power outages as of 9 p.m. Thursday

Another 5,818 Hall County customers of Georgia Power were affected as of 9 p.m. Thursday.

Georgia Power warned customers Thursday of scammers attempting to profit off of the storm damage. The company said the schemes were an additional fee for expedited power restoration and demanding payment from customers behind on their bills before being reconnected.

“The company continues to work with customers who are behind on payments or need to make payment arrangements through its usual customer service process,” according to Georgia Power’s news release.

Hall County’s 911 center received 292 calls of down power lines and 842 calls regarding fallen trees between noon Monday and 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to Hall County officials.

The center usually answers some 1,100 calls on a typical day, but Hall County 911 fielded 3,196 during that time period regarding storm damage, according to officials.

Mulberry Creek Community Center, East Hall Community Center and North Hall Community Center are also available for charging electronics and hot showers, though anyone coming will need to bring their own toiletries and towels.

The three community centers are at 4491 JM Turk Road in Flowery Branch, 3911 P Davidson Road in Gainesville and 4175 Napone Road in Gainesville, respectively.

Hall County offered additional advice and information Thursday night, including that the landfill and compactor sites will not accept “any type of vegetations that fell as a result of the storm.”

“However, the landfill and compactor sites will accept any food or other items that may have spoiled during the widespread power outages that affected our area,” according to the county’s news release. “The landfill can take non-vegetative debris that may have littered your property during the storm such as lumber and roofing. Although the Hall County Landfill does not accept vegetation that fell as a result of the storm, several Hall County businesses do provide that service.”

The county does not pick up storm debris or trees on private property and advised of how to potentially hire a private contractor to dispose of the debris. Tips include checking for a business license, references and that the business is insured or bonded, as well as not paying in advance.

The burn ban is still in effect until Oct. 1.

Pilgrim’s distributed free ice Thursday and will give it away again from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Saturday at its 920 Queen City Parkway location in Gainesville.

Ice is being scooped from massive containers with large plastic shovels and placed into coolers for those who show up.

Gainesville resident Gail Baucom brought two coolers to be filled up Thursday morning after going to two other places that didn’t have ice. She said Georgia Power had said her power would be back on by 7 p.m. Saturday.

Daily News Editor Clark Leonard contributed to this story.

Multiple groups in Hall County are offering help to those still struggling with power outages. Here’s a look at a couple ways you can find help:

Meals and showers at schools

Six middle schools in the Hall County district are opening from 3-6 p.m. Thursday to offer residents a chance to have a free meal and take a shower. Davis, Chestatee, East Hall, North Hall, South Hall and West Hall are opening up as part of the effort. With the Hall schools closed Friday, middle schools will open for breakfast from 8-10 a.m. and afternoon meals and showers from 2-5 p.m.

Residents are asked to bring their own toiletries and towel.

For more information email cheryl.jones@hallco.org or tamara.etterling@hallco.org.

Free meals and showers

When: Breakfast, 8-10 a.m.

Lunch, 2-5 p.m.

Where: Davis Middle School

4450 Hog Mountain Road, Flowery Branch

Chestatee Academy

2470 Fran Mar Drive, Gainesville

East Hall Middle

4120 East Hall Road, Gainesville

North Hall Middle

4856 Rilla Road, Gainesville

South Hall Middle

4335 Falcon Parkway, Flowery Branch

West Hall Middle

5470 McEver Road, Oakwood

Free ice

If you don’t have power and need ice in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irma, Pilgrim’s can help.

The poultry company is distributing free ice from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at its 920 Queen City Parkway location in Gainesville.

Charging Power

Mulberry Creek Community Center, East Hall Community Center and North Hall Community Center are available for charging electronics and hot showers, though anyone coming will need to bring their own toiletries and towels.

The three community centers are at 4491 JM Turk Road in Flowery Branch, 3911 P Davidson Road in Gainesville and 4175 Napone Road in Gainesville, respectively.

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