How a hurricane-devastated community is coming together for Thanksgiving

People in Panama City, Florida, are hosting a huge Thanksgiving dinner at a local school for all members of the community to come together.
8:36 | 11/21/18

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Transcript for How a hurricane-devastated community is coming together for Thanksgiving
And we've got a story that is truly in the spirit of the holiday. It's one we wanted to highlight with our tell T.J. Series. T.J. Holmes is in Panama City, Florida, where a community is coming together to lift each other up after suffering major devastation in hurricane Michael. Good morning again, T.J. Reporter: Good morning to you, Strahan and, look, you can argue Panama City, this is a city in cleanup move since the storm hit October 10th but this cleanup is because of a mess they gladly made themselves last night. Yeah, we good a lot going on. A lot of work still going on this morning but they gladly made the mess themselves and have a lot in the community still without homes so having a Thanksgiving meal wasn't in the cards, then these folks stepped up with hundreds more volunteers and said, hey, we got 450 Turkey, let us cook for you. Hurricane Michael was a monster. The strongest storm to ever hit the Florida panhandle, its primary target Panama City. It virtually wiped out this community, thousands were left homeless. Some schools were so badly damaged that they were only able to re-open last week, a full month after the storm. Come on, y'all. Reporter: Their first order of business, Turkey. 5,000 pounds of it. These are the largest. They'll take longer. Reporter: Bay high school's culinary director Greg Bailey had what he admits is a crazy idea, get his students to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for everybody. Everybody wanted to have their piece of pie, their piece of the action to be able to come out and help. The response has been overwhelming. ?????? Reporter: Volunteers were immediately on board with bailie's plan to feed up to 6,000 people who might otherwise not have a Thanksgiving dinner. Companies helped too donating food and time. Nestle going above and beyond donating food, water, desserts and so much more to make sure no one went home empty-handed. The hurricane took away any chance of a traditional Thanksgiving for many of these families. We don't even think about the fact it's a national holiday and that we would normally be preparing to have dinner with our family. We're still in survival mode. Reporter: For some, this might be their only Thanksgiving dinner. Was it possible that this might be the only bite of Turkey you were going to get this week? Yes. How was that bite? Good. Delicious. Reporter: This year, food, traditions seem secondary. Family and community are the priority and one man's crazy idea turned into part of this community's recovery and a reminder that people who lost everything still have plenty to be thankful for. And to actually be a part of this event and to see our families anding be with our families and just help in our community, it's what our hearts need. It's what our morale needs. It's what our community needs. Reporter: And I said this is just a few of the volunteers. I said we had hundreds and look what happened this morning. I said we had hundreds. Y'all pulled it off. Y'all pulled it off. These are the folks that pulled it off. Guys and I'm going to sit down with two special guys. This is principal Smith who -- actually prince mall of jinks school. You had to take on high school students. Had you all that going on. He comes and says, let's feed the whole community but you didn't think you had a choice but to pull it off. We had to. Our community needed it and any time someone says I have a crazy idea, I'm crazy enough to do it, this is the right guy to make it happen. This is the crazy guy, this is coach bailie. Who had the idea and has been working nonstop to pull this off. A lot of people don't know, you just like everybody in the community, you lost a lot and took on personal loss for this storm. We did. Just like everybody else did but you still pulled this off and I heard you say to your volunteers yesterday, to the students, you have jobs assigned to you. If you don't have one assigned to you your job is to love on somebody. What did you mean by that? Well, there's always going to be somebody who is a little worse off than you so hopefully through what I've taught and displayed everybody understands that while your life may be in shambles and things may be going on there's somebody else who needs you to help them at that point in time too. We saw that yesterday and I want you all to know, robin, stra, George, that what's Thanksgiving without leftovers. You got to have leftovers. Well, the food, the people who weren't able to come by last night they're taking the food they have left over over to them. They hope to feed another thousand plus today and keep in mind there's still people in this community six weeks after the storm, I want you all to hear this, six weeks after the storm they still have people in this community living in tents and that is where they're taking that food today. So remember these folks down here after hurricane Michael. We certainly will, T.J. And have to say, what a blessing to have such strong community ties and we've been celebrating Michael's birthday here and I understand that Greg is having a birthday coming up soon too? Oh, yes. We don't want to forget about you. Robin Roberts just mentioned to me you have a birthday coming up. I do. On Friday. I think you all knew this. Okay, so I mean while we're here, my anchor, robin, George, come on with me, come on with me here. Robin, robin, George and Strahan wanted to give you a birthday cake. So happy birthday to you, but can you read what we have on your birthday cake. Can you read it? To the bay high foundation a $20,000 check. Yes. Bay high school. Of course, we know that Nestle played a big role in donating a lot of the food. Huge role. Huge. They heard and loved what you were doing and wanted to do more and they stepped up and they are contributing this to your school foundation to help. I know you're rebuilding and you'll open at some point. You hope to but this can possibly help you. Thank you. Along the way. Thank you. So robin, George, Strahan this, is the guy, everyone lost something here but they are giving back in a major way despite everybody in this room, some of them still without homes as you see them but they have been supporting each other and the whole community yesterday and this did the guy who spearheaded it all. T.J. T.J., let me ask you, what does it mean to you personally to be able to do these types of stories and to give people a platform to share these stories? Look, robin, there's enough negativity, right, going on in the world, and you get -- and you get a guy like this and you know, to hear them say thank you to us just for being here, they were going to do this whether we were here or not. You know, so you talk about Thanksgiving and I'm thinking about my meal that I'm cooking tomorrow and these folks are looking for a place to stay. I mean, just, you know, thisser ahe helping out as much as you can imagine, robin. T.J., we got to thank you, T.J., because we joke and say T.J., you know, tell T.J. Means tearjerker. Yeah. Exactly. But no one brings us these things better than you and you've done a great job of spotlighting all these incredible stories and we just got to say, thank you. This is an inspirational story and the perfect story that leads us right into Thanksgiving and the meaning of what it's all about so, T.J., thank you and congratulations to all those volunteers and the coach and principal and all the hard work that everyone is doing there and, you know, we'll be right back, everybody. Tissue sales are going

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