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A South Carolina woman was forced to evacuate for Florida because of Hurricane Florence.
Ashleigh Gilleland, and her fiancé David, traveled from Myrtle Beach to Sarasota to escape the deadly storm, the 21-year-old told The State in an interview via Facebook and email.
As Gilleland left a Sarasota restaurant, she discovered a note and gift waiting on her windshield, she posted on Facebook.
It was left there by a stranger, a Florida resident who wrote she had to evacuate her home last year during Hurricane Irma.
“Saw your license plate is from South Carolina. Not sure if you evacuated from the storm, but just know Florida is praying for you and your state,” the note read. “When we had Irma, we evacuated to Alabama and received a similar letter on our car because our Florida license plate, so I wanted to pass it on.
“We understand how it feels to evacuate. God bless!” It was signed “Chelsey.”
Gilleland said when she first saw the note on her windshield, she thought it might have been a message about her parking, which she said “was fine.” Gilleland quickly realized it was something else as she felt something hard inside.
“When I opened it, I saw the money and the (gift) card and automatically knew it was because of us being evacuees,” Gilleland said. “I was overwhelmed and automatically starting thinking about how I could pay it forward for someone else. The smallest gestures can make the biggest impacts on people’s lives.”
Gilleland told The State she wants to keep the amount of the gift private, saying “it’s the thought that counts!” as she and her fiancé were driving back to their apartment in Myrtle Beach.
“I’m so happy to know there are still great people in the world,” she posted on Facebook.
She said they left at 6:30 a.m. Monday from the hotel in Sarasota, where they were staying with friends who also had evacuated because of the storm.
When they were “about an hour away from Myrtle Beach,” Gilleland reported “the drive has been better than we could have hoped. No issues at all.”
Gilleland reported that the family and friends who did not leave South Carolina during the height of the storm are “fine.”
She did not know about the status of their apartment. While Gilleland said she was “hoping for the best,” she said that they live on the first floor of their apartment complex, which she said “is known to flood!”
The couple, expecting a baby boy in February, is hoping there won’t be damage waiting for them. Regardless, Gilleland said she is inspired to pay forward the kind gesture she received. And she won’t wait until the next hurricane.
“I’m gonna pay it forward once I get home because I know of all the devastation that has happened there over the past week,” Gilleland said. “Myrtle Beach needs some positivity.”
Her Facebook post has been shared 4,600-plus times and has garnered more than 4,400 reactions.
Gilleland said she hopes it continues to reach more people so she can meet Chelsey, and show her gratitude.
“I really just hope all of this will eventually reach Chelsey so that I can thank her in person,” Gilleand said.