News outlets spent last week looking back at Hurricanes Fran and Florence.
Hurricane Dorian, once a category 5 storm that hovered over the Bahamas, struck land in North Carolina as a category 1 on Sept. 6, a week prior.
BSC photo by K Brown
In the initial stages of Hurricane Dorian relief efforts, chainsaw teams and volunteers to cover roofs and remove debris from yards top the list of requests from organizers for North Carolina Baptists on Mission. Here, a chainsaw team works near Atlantic Missionary Baptist Church in Atlantic. NCBM initially set up two sites along the coast, but now have three in North Carolina. Here, Johnny Pendergrass of Franklin, N.C., works with a chainsaw crew to remove downed trees from homes in Atlantic and Cedar Island areas.
“Bigger disasters get more news coverage and more funds and more volunteers,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of North Carolina Baptists on Mission (NCBM). “Storms like Katrina and Florence garner more news coverage because of the widespread or large devastation. After those disasters we are able to do a longer-term response. Thankfully, we have been blessed with the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO) and designated funds that allow us to respond to the smaller disasters also.”
“Response to Dorian provides a challenge for NCBM volunteers,” said Brunson.
Because of the location of one of the sites, it takes a 2.5 hour ferry ride to get to Ocracoke where NCBM has set up a campground and is housing volunteers at an Assembly of God church.
NCBM also is situated at Atlantic Missionary Baptist Church in Atlantic as well as Cape Hatteras Baptist Church in Frisco.
The Atlantic site includes a recovery, logistic, chaplain and administration team. Much of the teams will serve Cedar Island, which had flooding.
Chatty Dodd, incident commander at the Disaster Relief Operations Center housed at Atlantic Missionary Baptist Church, said 124 homeowners had requested assistance from the missions teams, but more will come.
“People in the community are great folks and this church has been outstanding,” he said in a NCBM Facebook post Sept. 15.
Most of the initial requests have been related to tree damage at Atlantic, but volunteers have also helped put tarps on roofs and clear debris. “We will stay as long as we are needed,” Dodd said.
NCBM’s Kitchen 3 unit is cooking at the Hatteras site. Recovery teams are already doing mud-outs, tear-outs and chainsaw work. Logistic, chaplain and admin teams are also on site.
Ocracoke has four large shower units, three laundry units, generators and two water tanker units. Kitchen 4 has been set up, and recovery teams are working on the island. Travel to and from the island has been made more difficult by a re-routed ferry.
Brunson said that now that NCBM has a site on Ocracoke, meals will not have to be transported by boat anymore.
“I think the needs on Ocracoke from Dorian are much greater,” said Brunson. Early estimates from officials guess that it will take three to four weeks to restore power on Ocracoke, but that may take longer.
Brunson said that the NCMO, with a special emphasis this month, supports disaster relief and all 18 ministries of NCBM (including the salaries of those who serve at NCBM). “It is through the NCMO and the great work of amazing volunteers that NCBM is able to do the work of disaster relief.”
BSC photo by K Brown
Natalie Smith, above center, remembers being confused after Hurricane Florence. She wanted to serve but didn’t know what to do. Her mother saw a news report about the work of the North Carolina Baptists on Mission in New Bern. In March, Smith was trained in mass feeding, and now, she has responded to her first disaster. Here, she is working with Ray Dixon at Region Four’s site at Cape Hatteras. They prepared meals for Hatteras and for the ferry to carry over to Ocracoke.
“It’s integral to everything we do,” Brunson said. “Our regular, ongoing operating budget comes from the North Carolina Missions Offering. We also often times receive designated funds for specific disasters or for general use that are over and above our regular budget.”
Over the years, Brunson said NCBM has built a reserve fund to dip into to purchase sites like Charity School, a new site for long-term Florence rebuilding efforts. While the tornadoes affected smaller areas, Brunson said NCBM is also trying to coordinate some response to those areas as well.
Brunson stressed NCBM’s continued commitment to help people affected by Hurricane Florence. The new sites were filled with volunteers all summer.
“We’ve got plenty of space, except on some weekends,” Brunson said. “We believe that for the next three years we’re going to be doing Florence rebuilding in eastern N.C.”
While Brunson doesn’t believe Dorian will bring in major donations, representatives from Goodwill Foundation stopped by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina building in Cary Sept. 13 with a $20,000 check to help with needed supplies. Most recently the organization gave $200,000 toward a new health screening bus for NCBM.
A Sept. 13 press release from the N.C Department of Public Safety detailed six agencies working to get Hurricane Florence survivors back in their homes.
“There are still many people struggling to recover from Hurricane Florence who need help,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “These funds will help more people get their homes repaired or rebuilt.”
NCBM received the most funds totaling $500,000, followed by Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry and United Way of Coastal Carolina, both with $400,000; Legal Aid of North Carolina Inc. with $350,000; Fuller Center Disaster Rebuilders Inc. with $182,000; and Rebuilding Together of the Triangle with $168,000.
“The agencies receiving these funds are among the most involved and engaged in Hurricane Florence recovery work,” said North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “We look forward to their continued good work using these additional funds.”
The N.C. General Assembly provided the funds with its Hurricane Florence Disaster Relief Act. According to the press release, these grants add to the $1.9 billion in state and federal funds already on the ground for Florence relief in the state.
Brunson said NCBM plans to help 125 families purchase supplies for their homes. That averages out to $4,000 per home.
With its expanded sites to address the widespread Florence devastation, Brunson said the organization is committed for the long haul, estimating at least three years spread among five-six sites.
“We want to be good partners,” Brunson said. “We want to really not disappoint that trust.”
That close work with the state helped NCBM get on Ocracoke earlier than other organizations. The longstanding and trustworthy work of NCBM and its volunteers builds relationships.
Pam Wood, an NCBM volunteer from Rocky Mount, said she is many times asked why she goes to help people she doesn’t know.
“I tell them this is my opportunity to share the gospel as I show God’s love to them,” she said.
Camp Cale, Fort Caswell and Kennedy Home indicated that the worst damage involved trees down on the property.
“It does not appear trees hit any buildings, but we will update you when we know more,” said the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH) Facebook page update on Sept. 6. “Thank you for your prayers!”
Kennedy Home in Kinston is one of the homes that was struck hard by both hurricanes Florence and Matthew.
Kennedy Home children and caregivers evacuated to the main BCH campus in Thomasville with local restaurants providing food for the displaced.
BCH reported Sept. 8 that McNeill Home, a seasonal cottage at Indian Beach, sustained damage also. The storm surge from the sound entered the lower floor. The dock was affected, too, along with erosion, the sea wall and the fences separating properties.
Leaders at Fort Caswell on Oak Island, where the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina operates the N.C. Baptist Assembly, indicated that the site, which closed for the weekend because of the storm, reopened Sept. 9.
Camp Cale, located in Hertford, reported that trees were down, but that the bulkhead and dock held. The camp is situated along the Perquimans River.
To help or donate, visit baptistsonmission.org/Dorian.