More than 4,000 volunteers have helped people in North Carolina recover fromn Hurricane Irene.
August 28, 2012--One year after Hurricane Irene tore through eastern North Carolina, hurricane survivors aren't exactly losing hope—but they're tired. With hundreds of homes still waiting for repairs, many people have been left wondering when their recovery will shift into a higher gear.
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene lingered for nearly 36 hours over the North Carolina coastline, damaging and destroying thousands of homes. More than 35,000 people seeking aid for hurricane recovery registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The United Methodist Church is accompanying people on their road to long-term recovery. Case manager Donna Brander, who works at the Aurora United Methodist Disaster Center, said that, for the first six months after Irene inundated their communities, people walked around in shock.
“Now, they're thinking: Is anybody going to help me?” Brander said it's sometimes difficult to tell people that, yes, they will receive help—but they have to wait.
“We still have 100 homes we have to fix on the south side of the river alone,” she said. “We haven't had enough volunteer teams to move repairs along as fast as we would like.”
The hurricane survivors understand about the wait, but when they hear the news at the disaster center, she said, “You can see their shoulders drop.”
UMCOR was able to help hurricane survivors with a $1 million grant to the North Carolina Conference in March 2012. The grant was in addition to 2011 money that has helped fund a recovery that, for many, is just beginning.
The Aurora site is one of several United Methodist disaster recovery centers operating along the eastern part of the state. All the centers report that dozens—sometimes hundreds—of people are awaiting repairs to their homes.
Cliff Harvell, the conference's disaster response superintendent, said that the grant has helped hundreds of families return to their homes. But now that summer is over and volunteers are returning to school and work, Harvell is concerned that help for Irene survivors is evaporating.
“Our volunteer base is down,” he said, but he added that volunteer support has been tremendous for North Carolina's recovery. “We've had teams from 22 states including Washington, Florida, Nevada, California, and even three provinces in Canada.”
Since Irene made landfall, more than 4,000 volunteers have given more than 70,000 volunteer hours, added Harvell. “But we're still desperate for volunteers.”
Long after a disaster leaves the headlines, long-term recovery goes on, often without the general public's knowledge or support, pointed out Ann Huffman, volunteer coordinator at the conference's call center.
“Recently I got a call from somebody who still had a tree in their yard,” she said. “A year out, there are people still living in homes that probably should be condemned. But they don't have another place to go.”
Your gift to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670, will help people in North Carolina along their path to long-term recovery.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.