Written by Grace Tippett
On September 14th, 2018, the landscape, culture, and normalcy of Wilmington, North Carolina, and many other communities in the Southeast, were changed forever when the eye of Hurricane Florence made landfall. Wilmington had not seen a hurricane of the same caliber as Hurricane Florence, since Hurricane Hazel in 1954. I will never forget the frightening crack of trees as they hit the ground during the darkness of a power-outage. My neighborhood used to be thick with age-old trees, but after the swirling winds and torrential rain, it is not nearly as green as it once was. My family and I had minor damages to our house and lost our vehicles, but we were fortunate compared to the many families that have been displaced, are now homeless or have lost loved ones.
Fast-forward over a month, and the storm is still very relevant in the minds of Wilmington citizens and community leaders. Students were out of school for a total of 17 school days and the New Hanover County School Board is still wrestling with ideas on make up days, if they will be made up at all. The problems created by this natural disaster are not ones that will go away in the next few weeks, and probably not even in the next few months. We will carry the material, physical, and even mental effects with us for years to come.
In the short-term, Wilmington is in need of strong community interaction and communication. Some people have endured intense loss and though material items can be replaced it is heart-wrenching for people to lose all of their possessions. Our oceans are severely polluted with runoff and the damage to our aquatic ecosystems is serious. In the long-term, it is going to be an extensive journey to some sense of normalcy, but things will never be the exact same as they were before. The biggest long-term need is housing, as many lost their homes, received eviction notices, or had to move in with family and friends as we recover.
Story of Hope
Throughout all of the devastation, this experience is still a story of hope. Many church and community organizations united to distribute supplies and provide meals. One highlight of hurricane relief efforts was Convoy of Hope. They are a humanitarian organization that responds to the needs of suffering communities by distributing food and supplies. Convoy of Hope was stationed at Port City Community Church in Wilmington and mobilized hundreds of teen volunteers in the Wilmington area. DREAMS of Wilmington, a non-profit organization that brings arts programs to underprivileged youth, led a supply distribution center where they distributed frozen and canned goods, as well as diapers and toys for displaced children. Additionally, other local organizations, such as Support the Port, Vigilant Hope, Nourish NC and the Harrelson Center met the immediate needs of our community and still work everyday to help survivors of the storm.
During times of devastation like this, it is difficult to see the bright side, but the a beam of positivity that derived from such a terrible event was the sense of community that followed. The people of Wilmington and its surrounding areas have never been as united as they now are. It is heartwarming to see citizens of all nationalities, ages, political affiliations, religions and genders come together to relieve some of the stress from our community.
Making a Difference
No matter your background, individuals and groups are able to make a difference in our community, especially at a time like this. After an event of this degree, it is helpful for everyone to do their part.
The following is a list of local organizations that are still providing ongoing support to those affected by Hurricane Florence. Each organization accepts volunteers and/or donations to help with the ongoing recovery with the hurricane relief.
Vigilant Hope: http://vigilanthope.com/serve-with-us/hurricane-relief This is an organization the primarily focuses on the local homeless population or those in extreme need. They provide food, showers, and other services throughout the week.
Support the Port: http://www.supporttheport.com/ This non-profit has provided clothing, medical services, food, and living essentials to those recovering from the hurricane. They represent many in communities often overlooked and that are underserved.
Harrelson Center: http://harrelsoncenter.org/ This is a non-profit campus of twelve different organizations, each with a specific focus. They were able to unify forces and open a warehouse that offered cleaning supplies, food, and other necessities to many families in need.
Nourish NC: https://nourishnc.org/ This organization focuses on providing students and their families with healthy foods so that they can be successful in their classrooms and communities. They have reached many needs for those have suddenly faced food insecurity after the storm.
Paws Place: http://www.pawsplace.org/ This is a no-kill rescue that has helped many dogs who were abandoned through Hurricane Florence. Even though their facility incurred significant damage, they have not wavered in their commitment to helping each pet find a home.
Communities in Schools Cape Fear: https://www.ciscapefear.org/ The CIS affiliates are working to support schools and families impacted by the storm. They have been key in aiding the 800 homeless students of Pender County.