SANFORD, Fla. – This isn’t a story about devastation, but a story about community and support.
A Sanford business owner is sharing a special experience that brought together dozens of neighbors, who helped her get back to business quickly after Hurricane Ian hit Central Florida.
“Hollerbach’s has been here for 21 years and this is definitely one of the worst storms we’ve seen here in Sanford,” said CEO Christina Hollerbach.
Hollerbach’s German deli and market reopened Saturday afternoon, but was left a mess after the storm. The roof didn’t hold up to the heavy wind and rain causing the ceiling tiles to collapse. In the restaurant, flood waters covered the dining room floor.
Hollerbach said she wasn’t too concerned about the damage. Compared to other areas hit hard by Ian leveling businesses and homes, she was one of the lucky ones.
“For business, we’ll clean it up, we have insurance and there are grants. But it’s the people I fear for the most because there’s not much there to help them,” Hollerbach said. “Those people rely on people to be in here and on tips to make an income. That was my biggest concern: getting open as soon as possible so we can get people back to work to earn an income.”
Hollerbach put a call out on Facebook: “Seeking help from Sanford locals only. If anyone is able and willing we could use your help... please come to the restaurant.”
“We were just hoping five or ten people would show up. Fifty-plus people came. We had to post an update telling people to stop coming because we had enough help. They were helping us move food into refrigerated trucks, squeegeeing out water, clearing out debris — it really was a community effort and incredibly emotional. It was wonderful to see, we’re not just a business but part of the community. It really is special,” Hollerbach said.
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The group moved on to help neighboring businesses, like the West End Trading Company, which experienced flooding and lost their awning to heavy wind.
“The community came together really strong,” said West End Trading Co. Event Coordinator Dustin Gioertz.
Most of the storefronts and restaurants on 1st Street were back open a few days after Ian hit. But the threat of more damage stands just a few steps away. The water level from Lake Monroe continues to rise, spilling onto the roadway and flowing back towards the businesses that just got cleaned up.
“Right now the water keeps coming up, encroaching Seminole Boulevard and the civic center where we’ve planned to have Octoberfest a week away,” said Hollerbach.
Hollerbach wants to share her experience to encourage others to help however they can and for those in need, to reach out.
“Never be afraid to ask for help, there’s so many people who want to contribute in whatever way possible,” Hollerbach said.
So far, Oktoberfest at the Sanford Civic Center is still on for Oct. 14 through Oct.16. You can purchase tickets here.
Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Hollerbach’s foundation, assisting employees affected by Ian.
Have you experienced an act of kindness in the wake of Hurricane Ian? News 6 would love to hear about it. You can share your story in this article. Your story may be featured on News 6.