Ivan brought them, Atmore kept them

Published 11:47 pm Monday, October 25, 2004

By By Arthur McLean
Don Ellestad just never had a good feeling about Loxley. But when he and his crew arrived in Atmore all the way from Texas to work after Hurricane Ivan, he'd found his new home.
"Everyone we met was so nice," Ellestad said. "We just had a good feeling about this place."
He arrived with his brother and two employees of his Weatherford, Texas based company in a 36-ft. travel trailer to work, after the storm. A month later, Don Ellestad, his wife Sally, and their three children are living in a rental house looking for land, and the kids are enrolled in school.
Even his two employees have decided to settle in south Alabama.
"I feel we were led here by Heavenly Father," Ellestad said.
He struck up a friendship with William Grissett, owner of Escambia Lawn. He did some work for the Grissetts and then Bert Rice, and soon more followed.
Atmore's people pulling together, their graciousness and faith struck a cord with Don Ellestad and with Sally Ellestad when she visited. "Within the first few days, we'd been invited to church four times," Ellestad said. "We really like the way people respect each other's faiths here," Sally Ellestad said.
The town's small size, friendly people, faith and laid back lifestyle were an immediate appeal to the Ellestads, who said they were mentally tired from running a large business outside of Fort Worth, Texas.
"We were running a business with 40 employees," Ellestad said. "We were just tired. We're not afraid of hard work, but I would drive to work with a cell phone in one hand and radio in the other."
Sally Ellestad was a little skeptical when her husband said he was thinking about moving the family to Alabama. "I was hesitant about moving from Texas," she said. "I have two older daughters there and my parents are getting older. When he told me, I said 'we'll see."
But Atmore's charms won over Sally Ellestad as well. After that, things fell into place. "We planned that the move would take about a month, but within a weekend everything fell into place," said Don. "We feel really blessed to be here," Sally said.
Enrique Noguera and Lorenzo Rodriguez, Ellestad's two employees, have also discovered Atmore's appeal. They plan to settle in the area as well, and continue working with Ellestad in his business handling tree removal, trenching and similar work.
"We plan to keep it smaller than in Texas, but we still plan to work hard," Ellestad said. For this newest Atmore family, their philosophy of a Christ-centered life and service to others will mark the beginning of what they believe will be a long and fruitful relationship. For this Atmore family the town's motto is New friends and new beginnings.

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