Panama City native starts fundraising effort

Benton wearing her custom shirts to help her family and community in Panama City after Hurricane Micheal.
Photo submitted by Adrian Benton

Adrian Benton, a Panama City native, FAMU alumna and Tallahassee resident, is still trying to come to grips with what Hurricane Michael did to her hometown.

“I heard the fear in my mom’s voice when she called me but my parents knew that it was too late to evacuate,” she said. “The neighbor’s roof flew off and they had to go to my parent’s house for safety.”

Hurricane Michael swept through Florida’s Panhandle and tore through Panama City. It destroyed power lines, trees and home after home as it made its way north and east.

“This is going to take years to recover from,” FEMA worker Bill Layer from Dothan, Alabama, said. “I have a vacation home on the beach but my neighbor’s home is gone.” 

Layer is responsible for checking on the 1,500 FEMA volunteers and staff housed in several hotels across the capital city. He will be stationed in Tallahassee for months to come to help the surrounding counties affected by the natural disaster. 

Benton tried to get her parents to a hotel that she found online after the storm but the nearest available was an hour away with no water or power available. 

After several people told Benton that I-10  was closed she proceeded to go out there and get to her parents to see the damages done to her childhood neighborhood.

“My brother and I loaded up our cars with supplies of gas, food, batteries, flashlights and water to help but when we arrived the devastation was more than we imagined,” said Benton.

“I can’t save everyone by myself but seeing the community show an outpour of love to one another during the aftermath of this Hurricane was amazing,” Benton added. “There were trees on houses and several sheds in the neighborhood that just flew away.”

Before the storm hit, Benton’s family created a group chat to stay in contact throughout the storm. They have been through Hurricane Opal in 1995 and figured it would have the same minimal damage, so they decided not to evacuate. When the storm finally hit, several family members checked in to update their safety status. When she didn’t hear from her grandparents and aunt in the group chat, Benton became worried and her parents drove to their house to make sure they were OK.

After trying several routes to get to the grandparent’s house, they decided to find their bikes under the debris to get to their home.

Luckily when they were able to reach their home everyone inside was OK. They had lost service due to cellular signal poles being down. They had a gas stove to make meals while the power was out that was used by neighbors as well.

“We were able to help clean up yards and meet neighbors we probably would have never met if the storm didn’t hit,” Benton said. “I knew when I saw the damage around my grandparent’s house that more needed to be done. An old friend gave me an idea to use my business to create shirts to help my family.”

Cole’s Charming Creations was established in June of this year and highlighted Benton’s talent to create custom shirts and items that sparkle. She mentioned the idea to her co-worker and they started the idea to “star your city” on a T-shirt.

She knew that creating this shirt cannot only target her city but the entire Panhandle of Florida was affected. The shirts come in different colors and have the shape of the state of Florida with a heart over the Panhandle with the phrase “Panhandle Strong” across the top of the chest.

“It has been amazing to see the amount of support and donations that came during and after the storm. My parents just received power after two weeks so these proceeds will help them and I’m just grateful to God that he spared my family,” Benton said.

To support Benton’s family, contact her on Facebook on the Cole’s Charming Creations page.