On Sept. 16, 2004, Hurricane Ivan changed the lives of the citizens of Gulf Breeze, Fla., forever as it destroyed the area.
In a single moment, in an act of kindness by a stranger, lives can change.
On Nov. 22, giving up the luxury of home during the Thanksgiving holiday, seven Clay City High School students set out to help change the lives of Ivan's victims through simple acts of kindness as part of Clay City High School Students of Operation Helping Hand.
What they experienced -- the overwhelming devestation of a city almost leveled to the ground, the spirit, faith and appreciation of victims in the face of extreme adversity -- has had a profound impact on their own lives.
"I'm grateful for my life like never before," explained sophmore Melinda Jackson. "Even after a day's work we felt it didn't even make a dent in the mountains of debris piled everywhere. But the people were happy because it gave them a place to begin."
"It gave them a reason to hope," agreed Event Coordinator Susan Rhodes, sponsor of the CCHS Bible Club. "That an end to the clean-up was possible."
With piles of garbage filled with furniture and household appliances stacked everywhere, the students began to pay attention to the smaller details when cleaning up around someone's home.
"This world is our gift. The stuff we accumulate through life is not everlasting," said senior Kyla Boles, who, like the rest of the group, was happy to help people find their memories among the trash. "Our lives should be more meager so that we have time to help others in need."