Local organizations are coordinating with federal and non-profit organization around the country to help those affected by Hurricane Florence and the resulting floods.
During the past few days, hundreds of water rescues have been carried out through local departments with the help of the volunteer-based Cajun Navy as well as Urban Search and Rescue units with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Shelters are still busy. Pender County still has four shelters open. In Brunswick, many shelters are close to full, but a representative said there is still room for people as they continue to evacuate. On Sunday evening, New Hanover County opened a pet-friendly shelter at Hoggard High School, which served as a consolidated location for evacuees.
As news of the damage Hurricane Florence brought to our area spread, other organizations also explored ways to help. On Monday, Convoy of Hope, a faith-based nonprofit, set up at Port City Community Church in Wilmington to distributing supplies such as toilet paper, toiletries, water, flood buckets of cleaning supplies, and food, said Jessica King, who works at the church. They were also making plans with the Samaritan's Purse humanitarian organization. Also, the First Baptist Church was setting up a disaster relief truck at the activity center on Independence Road on Monday.
Southeastern North Carolina’s Rotary district is working in cooperation with nearby districts to raise and collect funds, said April Clark, the governor for District 7730. A committee of Rotarians will oversee and approve the distributions.
One-person efforts are also underway. Sarah Daniels started a fundraiser to buy food from small family farms across the area, which would otherwise lose crops and livestock -- and the resulting funds.
“These will be donated to hunger relief efforts coordinated by the community through area nonprofits, restaurants/chefs, cooperative grocers and other partners,” said Daniels, who has worked with Feast Down East and the Cape Fear Food Council. ”It’s an important part of our community’s relief efforts because it stimulates the local economy by supporting small family business while providing for those in need through hunger relief… This will only become more important as our community recovers and grows.”
Former Wilmington resident, and current Raleigh-based realtor, Andy Anderson said he was collecting money to buy supplies for the first phase of recovery.
“I will be making a supply to Wilmington as soon as I can,” he said. He’s been told to bring items such as high-protein canned meals, paper goods, diapers, personal hygiene products and single-serve, shelf-stable meals.
As of Sunday, the Red Cross had 16 volunteers in Pender County who are working to bring in cots, comfort kits of toiletries, and other supplies that can help those in shelters, said Gerri Hanson, one of the volunteers in Burgaw. “More shelter volunteers will be coming in from Virginia, too,” she said.
Nearly 1,000 people are in shelters in Pender, said Tammy Proctor, public information officer. “It takes a lot to take care of that many people,” she said.
Throughout the area impacted by Florence, the Red Cross says 1,500 volunteers and disaster workers are helping in relief efforts. The organization is also is also taking donations for that work.
Urban Search and Rescue units with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are coordinating with local agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Guard. They report that they’ve checked on, and in some cases evacuated, hundreds of people in North Carolina.
The United Cajun Navy is also reporting that they're working around the clock and have made hundreds of rescues in three different parts of North Carolina. The Louisiana-based group brought more than 350 volunteers from 13 states, and dozens of boats, to the area as the hurricane approached land. Right now, they’re also requesting additional rescue boaters and volunteers and have set up a Facebook group, Cajun Navy — Florence Rescue Requests, to see who else needs help. The group is temporarily headquartered in Wilmington.
"We are still actively doing rescues," said Chelsea Miller, who is a point of contact for new volunteers and is also helping find places for the volunteers to stay locally.
This weekend, famed chef and restaurateur José Andrés brought his aid-centered World Central Kitchen to the area to make thousands of meals for emergency workers and those in need. (He provided a similar service in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.) There are two kitchens currently active. Local chefs such as Keith Rhodes of Catch and Christi Ferretti of Pine Valley Market helped make and serve 4,000 for breakfast and 6,000 for dinner on Saturday. Volunteer Susan Dietsch, an instructor with The Seasoned Gourmet in Wilmington, said they were again making thousands of meals on Sunday.
"It’s just amazing to see all the caring people step up to help their neighbors at a time of crisis," Dietsch said. "Chef Andres and staff have a great program and really know how to get this done, but it’s my fellow locals that are making it happen."