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Florida Welcome Center provides more than just a break

Florida Welcome Center provides more than just a break

Interstate 10 has been bumper to bumper traffic now that Hurricane Irma has passed. One Florida rest stop is leaving drivers with more positive feelings than just relief as they head home.

On Tuesday, troopers with the Florida Highway Patrol were walking dogs at the Florida Welcome Center. They grabbed leashes so owners could snag a break.

"Cause there's a lot of people out here traveling all by themselves and they don't have anybody to watch their dogs when they go to the restrooms," Sgt. Greg Forrest said.

For a little while, there were even free meals. Celebration Church of Fairhope had members grill up hot dogs and hamburgers. They only had about 100 left out of the 800 they bought.

"When people are in need, people volunteer to get together," Tom Penry said. "We saw a need out here and so the churches got together and did their thing."

Inside the welcome center building, employees did not underestimate the value of a smile. Before the hurricane hit, workers from the Florida Welcome Center helped at the Alabama Welcome Center to assist people heading west. Now that traffic has shifted in the opposite direction, Alabama workers are returning the favor.

"We're trying to help them find out about road conditions and gas," said Brenda Walker, an employee with Visit Florida.

Those are the main questions that drivers were asking. Lori Robertson-Scalzo said that is what she wanted to know.

"Mississippi was good, Alabama started getting heavy and then now, of course, I-10 has been horrible," Robertson-Scalzo said.

For her, the traffic jam is worth it because she still had a home.

"Clearwater is where we evacuated from and spent the hurricane in Jackson, Mississippi and actually enjoyed our time up there," Robertson-Scalzo said.

The people at the welcome center understand it is a case-by-case basis. So they are going to try to make things better for those who might not be so lucky.

"Anything to help these people out because we've all been here," Forrest said. "So whatever we can do to make this less of a burden for them we're trying to help them out."

The church plans to serve food again on Wednesday. Troopers said they will be available for dog walking needs.

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