HERNANDO BEACH (FOX 13) - In the midst of widespread devastation in the Florida Panhandle, we're hearing stories of kindness and hope. From first responders to regular citizens, people all around the state are reaching out to help the area recover from Hurricane Michael.
One of those citizens is Kathryn Birren of Hernando Beach. "The devastation was just so bad," Birren said, I just wanted to do something."
Birren put the word out around her community. She needed their help along with lots of donations.
"I said, if I'm going to go up with the pickup truck with the topper, I want it filled," Birren said. "I mean, every nook and cranny of that truck."
She did, from water bottles to paper towels to shaving cream and mac and cheese. Sunday, she journeyed up Interstate 75 and west on Interstat 10, passing thousands of snapped trees, a train on its side and countless downed power lines.
When she reached the drop-off point in Panama City Beach, she realized she couldn't simply unload and drive off.
"The moms just looked," Birren said, getting choked up. "They just looked so devastated. And then, I looked at the kids and the kids looked worse. I thought, I'm going to do something."
Among the donations, she found a bag of toys. And, in this area filled with utter devastation was a moment of pure joy.
"I'd pull out a doll, I'd pull out a stuffed animal, or, for a little boy, a Matchbox car," Birren said. "And, they smiled from ear to ear. And, it didn't just impact the kids but the moms and people standing around them as well. It was like a little bit normalcy there. This one little boy was jumping up and down, he was super excited, and gave me a big hug."
Birren wanted to share the photos of all the smiles and faces of relief, hoping it will encourage others to help in whatever ways they can.
"It may have only been one truck and one person but I had the help of the community to fill it, and we filled it, and everything was needed," Birren said