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Refuge Center Offers Sanctuary As Jacksonville Braces For Matthew

Ryan Benk
The Alco Roadhouse in Jacksvonille reamined open throughout Hurricane Matthew.

Many shops and restaurants in Jacksonville are boarded up and closed for business as Category 3 Hurricane Matthew inches closer to the city Friday morning.

But one diner is vowing to stay open, cooking hot meals for anyone who needs one.

A few people were sipping coffee and enjoying breakfast at the Alco Halfway House and Roadhouse restaurant at about 9 a.m. Executive Director Chris Hayes said if the walls in this 49-year-old place could talk, they’d have a lot say about resilience.

“We’re the last place in the city where you could actually come in with no money. Another words, if you went down to detox and you found yourself down on your luck, you could come in here. We serve 3,600 meals a month here. There’s no charge to that,” Hayes said.

Hayes said the Alco helps people turn their lives around. And in that way, he says staying open for people seeking refuge from Matthew is part of his DNA.

Motioning to the boarded up windows and steel door, Hayes extends an invitation.

“If somebody needs a cup of coffee, you come on in and we’ll have a cup of coffee with you,” Hayes said.

Matthew is expected to be just off the coast of Jacksonville's Beaches starting later this afternoon.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.