Hurricane Irene hit North Carolina’s coast two years ago – old news for most people. But mention “Irene” to Carroll and Cheryl Voliva and they still cringe.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
A volunteer learns how to install drywall during March 15-16 training at Southport Baptist Church in Southport. The North Carolina Missions Offering, which is emphasized this month, helps fund N.C. Baptist Men relief efforts in the state and beyond.
Their home in Bayboro, a city east of New Bern, was destroyed by the flood that resulted when Irene stalled over Pamlico Sound. Locals say the flooding and destruction from Irene were worse than from all the other hurricanes that have hit the coast over the past 100 years.
For example, of some 60 homes on Goose Creek Island, all but four were flooded.
“Our house was totally demolished in Hurricane Irene,” said Carroll Voliva. Both Carroll and his wife have health problems; rebuilding by themselves was not possible.
“We didn’t get any help from FEMA and we didn’t know what we would do,” he said.
But some time after the storm hit, they talked to North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM), who have sent thousands of volunteers to help coastal residents like the Volivas recover. Soon the volunteers were working on a new house for Carroll and Cheryl. This month, the Volvias will move into their new house, built by NCBM volunteers, who will hand over the keys but no bill or mortgage.
If past patterns hold, there will be weeping for joy by both the homeowners and the volunteers on that day.
Multiply that joy by 76: That’s how many houses NCBM has rebuilt along the coast over the past two years. For the first three months or so after Irene, volunteers shoveled mud and cleared debris. By the fourth month, they began rebuilding, said Gerald Williams, a site coordinator for NCBM in Bayboro.
NCBM receives operating funds from the North Carolina Missions Offering taken up by North Carolina Baptist churches across the state; more than half of this year’s total offering will go to the organization. September is a time of emphasis for the offering and the ministries it funds. This year’s offering goal is $2.1 million.
BSC photo by K Brown
Gerald Williams served as the North Carolina Baptist Men “blue hat” site coordinator for Bayboro, east of New Bern. N.C. Baptist Men has been helping rebuild.
Disaster relief is the best-known and most visible of the 14 ministries the offering supports.
“Disaster relief is important because it gives us a chance to meet the people one on one and share the gospel message with them,” Williams said. “Many of the people we have worked with in Pamlico County have church homes. Some do not, and we try to witness to them. Our crews always pray with the people that we help. Most of them we give a Bible to at the end of the job with the signatures of those who have worked on the home.”
He praised the partnership with Bayboro Baptist Church, which contributed their education building to house and feed volunteers.
“N.C. Baptist Men have made a huge impact on our community,” said Scott Fitzgerald, Bayboro pastor. “When you drive around and see all of the yellow shirts, there is a sense of, wow, look at all those volunteers.”
“We had over 5,024 volunteers spend the night at our church over the last year, working on the disaster relief, and in that time all people know the yellow shirts are associated with N.C. Baptist Men. And we have heard it, time and time again, the appreciation from the people in the community as to the volunteers being here and what it has meant for this community,” Fitzgerald added.
“They have put on a bright face and they’ve given [hope to] people who didn’t think they had any hope. … And through that hope have been able to show love and care for our community around them,” he said.
For more information visit www.ncmissionsoffering.org or call (800) 395-5102.