Atlanta residents are using a nontraditional method to assist others in need after an uncommon winter storm: Facebook.
Citizens of the Georgia capital have flocked to a particular group on the social network called SnowedOutAtlanta. Over 55,000 people linked up with the page since Marietta, Georgia, resident Michelle Sollicito started it on Tuesday. She instructs, "Post here details of who needs help and where. Also please post details of where people can get help from."
The assistance offered from Good Samaritans comes in a number of forms but seems to be primarily focused on car retrieval and food. Zach Haedt and Sam Tarquina, also of Marietta, have earned the moniker "hot chocolate hunks" for passing out free hot cocoa to stranded motorists on I-75. On the same interstate near Turner Field, Matthew Miller is also passing out hot chocolate along with cereal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
"I saw on Facebook people had been out here for 18 hours ... so I just thought I'd try to help out any way I could," Miller told WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Others credit the page with even greater deeds.
"Michelle your post saved me!" wrote Tricia Creighton on Sollicito's personal profile. "I found generous ladies that took me in..i was on road for 8 hours and finally had to give up after getting no where in that amount of time."
In another post on the main group page, Rebecca Waters recalled a tale of two men helping an elderly couple in need.
"We found a woman and her quadriplegic husband that were stuck in her car all night," she said. "They had no food or water and couldn't walk because he is wheelchair bound. These amazing men used their own chains on the woman's car. They helped the couple navigate to a complete stranger's house so that they could get in from the cold." Waters posted a photo of the men in action. The stranger took in the couple from the cold.
The charitable acts weren’t limited to individuals or small groups of people. Home Depot kept 26 stores in Alabama and Georgia open through the night. The stores served as shelters for the stranded. Other chains such as Publix, Target, and CVS welcomed drivers in so they would have a place to stay and food to eat. Chick-Fil-A also handed out food to motorists; one store in Alabama gave out hundreds of sandwiches to people stuck along a highway.
Sollicito said in an interview on blogradio.com that due to the high volume of requests, and offers, for help, six subgroups focusing on each area of Atlanta had to be created. Those both helped and inspired by her actions have offered gifts and money, but Sollicito has declined with a request not common enough: Pay it forward.