DECEMBER 18, 2018
By Emily McLamb
When North Carolina prepared for Hurricane Florence, much was said about how rural areas were still recovering from Hurricane Matthew.
The Lumberton community was hit hard by Matthew in 2016. Many families lost homes to flooding as the soil – still wet from rain in weeks prior to the storm – gave way to the long-standing downpour. So, of course, the images of a washed-out Interstate-95 this September were all too familiar.
The entire state has banded together, with help from local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations – big and small.
With a service area of seven predominantly rural counties, Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina works with over 260 nonprofit organizations to help feed those facing hunger. Armed with their experiences of Matthew, Second Harvest was prepared and anxious to serve, knowing each community would have needs unique to their circumstances.
With major roadways under water after initial impact, Lumberton was identified as a location desperately in need of a hefty distribution plan. The food bank contacted its member agencies in the area to coordinate distributions.
Wendy Chavis of Robeson County Parks and Recreation Department had worked with the food banks and local churches to provide food and supplies following Florence. Clients began sending their colleagues and loved ones to her for help.
Felicia Scott, a social worker at a local school, had felt the effects of Matthew and – when she learned that teachers at her school had been displaced – referred others to reach out to staff for help.
Wanda Locklear and Deana Caulder are working to find the pieces to get their home lives back on track. Due to damage, both have lost their homes and had to stay with extended family through the storm. Now, they’re trying to get what they need while still working to afford to rebuild.
“We’re not just displaced; my whole family is scattered,” explains Caulder – noting the extra emotional strain of Florence’s physical damage. A timeline of when they may be able to return home is up in the air – dependent upon insurance, construction, and what savings may be left.
Schools were out for two weeks following the storm. Lines to gather supplies at local shelters were long and stressful – demand outweighing supply. Because of the partnership with Second Harvest, Chavis is able to collect food and supplies on a schedule to distribute to those in need. The families collect disaster relief boxes of canned goods, grains and beans when they need a little more to get by. When non-food supplies like cleaning products and household items are also donated, staff make them available to help in the rebuilding process.
“There were children in our school who lost everything, too,” explains Locklear. “I put on a brave face and make sure that their day isn’t focused on that.” It’s that dedication to others which helps a community rebuild in the face of disaster.
Recovery is a long-term process but one Second Harvest is poised to assist through the hard-working, compassionate hands of its staff and partners – ensuring no one in Southeast North Carolina goes hungry. Since impact, the food bank has distributed more than two million meals, and over 771,000 meals in Robeson County alone.
Learn more about how you can help your neighbors in need.