Lynchburg family takes in Florida college students fleeing Hurricane Irma
If you walk into Chris Johnson's home this week, you'll find air mattresses, laptops, and a bunch of Ringling College of Art and Design students, including her son Austin, sitting around the kitchen table.
When they enrolled for this semester, the students had no idea they would have to evacuate from one of the most powerful hurricanes in recorded history.
"I said and load the cars and bring them and we'll figure it out," Johnson said. "[Austin] went around all the school the next morning and just checked with all his friends and said, 'If you don't have a place to go, my mom's going to open her home."
Their school, located in Sarasota, Florida closed ahead of Hurricane Irma's arrival, and they had to evacuate.
"I said, 'Hey, if you have nowhere to stay, if you have no possibility, you don't want to spend five nights in hotels, come to my place, come stay here," said Austin Johnson.
They are classmates and friends from different locations around the country, and as far away as China and Israel, all under the same roof and thankful for a home away from home.
"The family is awesome. "They've done so much for us, food shelter, I mean, all of it," said Ajay Agrawal, from Ohio.
People and restaurants, including Bojangles' and Domino's Pizza, have donated food and other items.
"Thank you to everybody helping us," said Nahman L'Ehrar. "Everybody's been such a big help to us and really giving."
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Here in Lynchburg, they say it takes a community to lend a hand.
"We were completely shocked at the generosity and the giving spirit of everyone in this community," said Stephanie Hamilton, a friend of the family and neighbor who played a big role in helping the students.
"Words can't express sometimes the things you go through in life and how people just step up and help you," said Johnson.
Two of the six students welcomed by Austin and his family were out enjoying the city during the interviews. The group is expected to stay in town for the next few days while they wait for classes to resume in Florida.