First off, Rachael Willis and I would like to thank everyone who donated to the Hurricane Florence Relief project. It was a great success with enough supplies to fill a Toyota Tacoma to the brim with food, clothes, and other supplies. Resources were given to so many in need, and we would like to share our experience with those who donated, because without you, this would not have been possible.
The trip started with a 10 hour drive. As we entered North Carolina, the damage could be seen almost immediately. Tarps were scattered across roofs and furniture that had previous furnished people’s houses was now discarded on the sides of roads for trash pickup. As we approached Wilmington, the scene progressively got worse with downed power lines, trees, and higher flooding.
Wilmington, North Carolina has not been hit severely by a hurricane since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The town has had countless storms brush the coast since then, and many of the locals have become desensitized to the severity of hurricanes. Despite mandatory and voluntary evacuations, many stayed to endure the storm. Due to the large amount of locals who decided to stay for the storm, local shelters filled quickly. Some shelters even had to be evacuated because of damage.
When we arrived to Wilmington, it became clear that we would run into a major problem. Downtown Wilmington was still under water, and it would be very difficult to get supplies to those in need on the short time frame we had. We did however, still have our Carolina Beach location and planned to give as much as we could there. While at Carolina Beach Community Church, in between the country worship music and the sermon, Rachael and I talked to the head pastor. We found out that the church was working with the Cajun Navy who were boating supplies to those in need.
One particular place was in the Cross Creek Community, a neighborhood my family was going to move to, but decided against it last minute. The neighborhood is now currently underwater, with all the houses condemned, leaving hundreds homeless. Those who live in Cross Creek were living on a hill near the neighborhood in tents for at least two weeks after the storm. During this time, they would wait for low tide, run to their homes to gather as much as they could, before heading back to the hill to beat high tide. The Cajun Navy was responsible for patrolling the neighborhood to prevent looting, and to boat supplies to those on the hill. We decided that this was where our extra supplies needed to go.
After church, we headed over to the community center to set up tables. There, we had three tables filled with supplies. Between 25 and 35 people showed up in this time, and we got to talk to those who had lost absolutely everything. Despite this, everyone had positive attitudes, and did not take more than they needed. Almost everybody debated between at least two items and only took the one they needed most.
A particular man that stood out to me was a homeless man who came by early in the day. He said that he had been homeless in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for some time but received a citation for being fed. It is illegal to feed homeless citizens in Myrtle Beach. After this, he moved to Carolina Beach with a goal in mind. He was going to open a homeless shelter where men and women could sleep, shower, and be prepared for job interviews. The man has begun lobbying to the local government to get locations for the shelter, and stated that he has already raised money from investors for the shelter. Though he had nothing, he remained humble and does not use the money for himself.
Despite the destruction Hurricane Florence left behind, it was incredible to see the positive attitudes the people had. Everyone has been out helping others, volunteering to help neighbors, and giving anything they can, even if they don’t have much for themselves. This attitude can be found from people of every background, religion, race, and other factors that divide our culture today. It was a beautiful scene of community and how much we can accomplish when we work together. Rachael and I thank you all for your support, and hope that you continue to do great things for your community.