PANAMA CITY, Fla. — At L.H. Bead Gallery on Harrison Avenue, you can find just that – beads of all shapes, sizes and colors; the stories they tell are even more unique than their design.
“It’s so fun,” said the store’s owner, Lisa Hanna. “It’s just kind of a neat outlet.”
In the days following Hurricane Michael, Hanna wasn’t sure what to expect when she came back to Harrison Avenue.
“I had no clue, I just figured there would be beads strewn out all over the streets,” she said.
The store miraculously remained relatively unharmed, and it sparked an idea.
“I just felt this urgency to do something,” said Hanna. “And just like, what can I do or what can we do to make a difference?”
She decided she could do that with a bead, becoming known as the ‘8-5-0 charm.’
“8-5-0 strong was going hot, everywhere,” said Hanna. “Everybody was, you know, we were trying to encourage each other.”
“It represents something that’s just bigger than all of us,” said Nancy Paige, a sales associate at the Bead Gallery.
The Gallery began selling the charms for $10 each and putting that money right back into local schools struggling to recover. Hanna decided she would do that for an entire year; the goal was to raise money for as many schools as she could.
“If you set your mind to something, to a goal, you can achieve it,” said Hanna.
As the months came and went, so did the charms. People came in to buy dozens at a time, as gifts, as mementos, and as a way to connect with each other.
“It was on fire,” said Hanna. “I mean we went through like 340 charms in one day.”
“Lisa and I couldn’t leave the counter,” said Jo Wilburn, manager for the Bead Gallery, recounting the days when hundreds of charms were sold at once.
Checks started to be written to schools, one after the other. That money has been used to help teachers, staff and even some students who are struggling to recover after the hurricane.
“I cannot thank Lisa enough for taking this on,” said Andra Phillips, Principal of Callaway Elementary School, which received $6,000 from the fundraiser. “This is what community is all about. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone to help other people.”
12 months after the storm came through, on October 10th, 2019, the store reached the goal for their 10th school, Waller Elementary.
“We’re just really appreciative,” said Waller’s Principal, Gina McNally, with tears in her eyes.
More than $60,000 has been raised so far, and Hanna will do it again for one more school before the charms are retired and no longer sold. However, the hope they created will be around forever.
“I never imagined we would be where we are at today and that humbles me,” she said. “It’s amazing, it really is.”
As of Saturday, October 12th, the Bead Gallery had 330 ‘8-5-0 charms’ left before they are no longer available. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm.