By Jacqueline Gottlieb, CEO
First time I’ve had down time in over a week. I haven’t even unpacked from Leadership NC yet.
A couple of weeks ago, Callie D Moore commented to me that she understood firefighters that were battling the forest fires needed housing. I reached out to the forest service and was told that they’d pass it along. A few days past, and we heard nothing. I packed and left for my business trip to Raleigh.
Before returning home, I was notified that we were working with the Forest Service as a potential lodging site. On the way home, I was overwhelmed by the growth of the fire. It was not only growing; it was coming closer to Hayesville. I witnessed flames in the tree line not far from the road.
Before the weekend was over at Hinton, we were wrapping up a retreat, a wedding, and welcoming fire fighters. With our small staff, we engaged the community in search of volunteers.
We’ve had over 200 offering their time and talents. Hayesville only has 310 people last I checked and Clay County around 10,000.
Donations of snacks, waters, and toiletries were delivered. The generosity continues to be overwhelming.
As we drive through our community, smoke fills the air and the breath-taking view of Lake Chatuge is hazy.
The fire fighters and Forestry Personnel rave about the people of this community. Some mention the generosity of the restaurant owners, and others talk about neighbors offering pastures to relocate livestock.We invited our guests to use our chapel. We’ve prayed with fire fighters before they head out to fight the fire in our minds knowing what dangers they face.
It’s all surreal. What does it all mean? Over 5,000 acres of our beloved forest land burning in our community with 18 other fires within a short drive. The thoughts of arsonists setting more fires infuriates each of us. Evacuations of our friends.
The potential of destruction and loss of life. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring – only time will tell.
So, we will continue to walk in faith with hope that everything will be okay. As we are the hands and feet of Christ, we will continue to provide the radical hospitality to our guests that is well know at the Hinton Center.
It is an honor and blessing to live and work in this community.