Hometown Hero: Toni Gainer of Panama City, Florida
After Hurricane Michael, she's helping her neighbors on their journey to rebuild
One year after the devastation of Hurricane Michael, we are revisiting the stories of the heroes who are still working to make a difference in their hometowns.
What began out of desperation in the days after Hurricane Michael has become a mission for a Panama City, Florida, woman.
Every Thursday and Friday – and often other days during the week – Toni Gainer is at the food bank she established at 2nd Mount Moriah Baptist Church in the days after the Category 5 hurricane devastated her community.
Thousands were without power and water then, and she started distributing food from a small space in the church sanctuary. “Then the trucks started coming out of nowhere.”
From all over the country, trucks ferried in diapers, clothes, bottled water and nonperishable foods.
“We just kept going,” she says. “We also got produce, canned goods, dried goods … I decided to feed everyone for as long as I can.”
Through a partnership with Feeding the Gulf Coast, Gainer has helped to feed hundreds of families in need through community meals and food giveaways.
“I see the people come in and get what they need, and it makes me feel good,” she says. “There’s been some ups and downs, but I keep praying and pushing forward.”
The struggle toward recovery continues for people in Springfield, Panama City and surrounding areas along the Florida panhandle.
“I know everyone goes through hard times, but don’t forget about us,” Gainer says. “We’re still going through it. We’re still trying, still struggling. There’s still a long road to recovery ahead.”
We’re proud to salute Toni Gainer, a neighbor helping neighbors, as a Whataburger Hometown Hero!