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Hurricane Irma evacuees forever grateful to Milton residents

Three-week stay restores family’s ‘faith in humanity’



MILTON, Ga. — Rachel Grace Martinez and her family anticipated their evacuation from Key West ahead of Hurricane Irma would be a harrowing experience. But Martinez said thanks to the kindness of Milton residents, their evacuation was anything but troubling.

“I know that evacuation is supposed to be a trying and traumatic experience, but it really has not been,” she said. “My faith in humanity has been restored because of this experience.”

On Sept. 8, Martinez, her two children, her partner Ben Solove, their two cats and one dog packed into her Kia Forte which she had purchased new just two days earlier. With the car packed to the brim, they headed to Milton where they would stay with Solove’s former nanny.

They planned to stay just one week, but after finding out their Key West home had no electricity or water, the trip turned into a three-week stay.

During that time, Martinez said she and her family were met with nothing but compassion.

“It was just such an easy process,” she said. “Everyone was so kind and friendly and showed genuine concern. People offered food and clothing and everywhere we went people were asking if we were okay.”

Due to the long stay, Martinez’s 10-year old daughter, Raquel, was enrolled at Summit Hill Elementary while her 12-year old son, Ryan, attended Hopewell Middle. Martinez said she is grateful to the schools for accommodating her children.

Martinez was also thankful to Countryside Pet Estates which took in her 45-pound pit bull.

She had only budgeted to be in Milton for two weeks, so when Countryside found out Martinez would have to stay another week, they waived her boarding fees.

At night, Countryside employee and Cambridge softball player Liz Seymour volunteered to foster the dog at her family’s home during the week.

“Everyone has been so helpful and kind,” Martinez said. “This experience has opened my eyes to the fact that people are inherently good.”

Martinez and her family are forever grateful to the residents of Milton who shared such kindness. And maybe, they will be residents one day.

“I wish I could live here,” she said. “I actually looked into it. We were looking at houses and jobs in the area. That’s how much we love it here.”

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