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Wilsonians pitching in for storm survivors

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From hot meals and cold drinks to hygiene items, cleaning supplies and air mattresses, Wilsonians are pitching in with a variety of efforts to help those hit hardest by Hurricane Florence.

Crystal Darak jumped into action on Sunday when she saw the flurry of posts on Facebook by folks who’d lost so much, eventually deciding to focus her efforts on helping people in Carteret County, Goldsboro, Kinston and Fayetteville. She’s partnered with Oh My Lard restaurant owner Sherry Farmer Bass and her workplace, the Brand Performing Arts Center on Lamm Road, to collect a variety of items including food, water, cleaning supplies, air mattresses and pillows for evacuees returning to damaged homes.

“Every little bit helps,” she said. “People don’t have to run to Target or Sam’s or spend a lot of money. They can pick up some rolls of paper towels at Dollar Tree and that would make a huge difference because the people we’re helping don’t have anything.”

She’s planning to deliver shelter supplies to Lenoir Community College this weekend, with other trips scheduled in the coming weeks. Donations can be dropped off at Oh My Lard in Elm City or at Brand Performing Arts through Sept. 28.

Bass said she’s increased her ongoing effort to support first responders with free meals, feeding many Monday morning when the tornado hit Elm City and delivering Gatorade and breakfast biscuits Wednesday morning as well. Customers have chipped in with a couple bucks here and there to help support emergency workers.

“Since I opened, we’ve done fundraisers, so it is automatic to help out when we hear someone is in need,” Bass said.

Emery’s Place, a food truck in partnership with Brent and Chasity Godwin and Wilson Praise and Worship, also jumped into action when news of how widespread the devastation was on the Carolina coast.

“Once we found out how bad everything got with the hurricane — especially in Wilmington and New Bern — we started putting a plan together to get a team on the road once the roads were passable and help people out,” said Chasity Godwin. “We have a great support system with people on Facebook and social media, so once they found out our plan, they started donating to our GoFundMe page. We’ve had so many people comment, text and call us with support.

“They are praying for us and showing an outpouring of love with donations.”

Brent Godwin and others are planning to take the food truck to Wilmington today and serve hot meals to volunteers, utility linemen and affected families through Friday.

“For North Carolina in general, everyone should pitch in and help because we never know when something might affect our lives like this,” Chasity Godwin said. “I just try to keep in mind what I’d want if I was in their shoes, so we’re trying to show the same grace and love to others.”

Lyrica Squires — who lives in Wilmington but grew up in Wilson and evacuated to her parents’ house to ride out the storm — was stunned when she saw the devastation, so she put out a call for donations on social media and collected supplies Monday.

“I had an entire truck bed of stuff and my church, Port City Community Church in Wilmington, is the main hub for Convoy of Hope and Samaritan’s Purse for the disaster relief,” she said. “Within an hour of getting back to Wilmington, I got a call from a friend who works at the Good Shepherd homeless shelter that was desperate for supplies, so I gave them the majority of the stuff I had collected.”

While her own home had no serious damage, it did have a few roof leaks and the storm felled a few trees in her yard.

“I met a family at my church that is sleeping on the floor,” she said. “It is a mom, her husband and five boys, and they have no clothes. They lost everything and there are so many stories like that. It is heartbreaking. I can’t imagine losing your home and everything in it, not knowing where you’re going to live or how you’re going to take care of your family.”

Gracie’s Village Shops owner Gracie Evans launched a donation drive on Wednesday with items collected at her shop on N.C. 58 and the Wilson Doughnut Shop to help residents of Harkers Island and Mount Olive. Evans also is working with her peer who runs Especially For You in Mount Olive and the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We are so very blessed that Wilson is OK, so we’ve got to be good neighbors and help them because we never know when it will be our turn to need help,” Evans said. “We’re collecting water, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, diapers, masks and that kind of thing. They also are looking for food that doesn’t need to be cooked and snacks for children. The elderly are often left out when things like this happen, so we’re also collecting adult diapers and supplies.”

Donations will be accepted through Saturday morning when supplies will be split between the two communities and be en route by 12:30 p.m. Evans said she’s been amazed by the outpouring of support from customers, adding she’s hoping to have five loads or more of donations.

There are several other donation drives going on in Wilson, including Rosebud Baptist Church collecting cleaning supplies, first aid kits, food storage and preparation supplies through Sunday for New Life Church in New Bern; and Thomas-Yelverton Funerals and Cremations at Evergreen Memorial Park is collecting supplies on weekdays through Oct. 15.

Other companies and business leaders have pitched in with the efforts, including Walmart, which pitched in for Wilson evacuees, and the local Lowe’s Home Improvement store manager, who got a shout-out Tuesday from the 230th Bridge Support Battalion on Facebook for donating fans, Rubbermaid tubs, laundry detergent and a washing machine.

“There are few moments that define and reaffirm why we as North Carolina National Guardsmen do what we do. This woman is that reaffirmation and definition all in one,” Staff Sgt. Dustin Wilmoth wrote in the post. “Her selflessness, her love of country and soldiers and her love of this state and her community is truly inspiring and the reason why I am honored to wear the uniform. Thank you ma’am, wherever you are, and may God bless you.”

Squires said she hopes the outpouring of support stays strong as the recovery process will not be a short one. Darak said people’s generosity has been inspiring to witness.

“Often people’s generosity is lost with all the politics and racism, but when disaster strikes, we pull together and stay strong,” Darak said.

HELP FOR FLORENCE SURVIVORS

The following individuals and businesses are collecting supplies such as nonperishable food, bottled water, cleaning agents, hygiene items, products for babies and the elderly, pillows, blankets and air mattresses.

• Wilson native Lyrica Squires is encouraging folks to donate physical items for her parents to bring down in the coming days or contribute to Wilmington nonprofits. For more information, email Squires at lyricasquires@gmail.com.

• Rosebud Baptist Church, 4313 Rosebud Church Road, Wilson; full list of items at www.rosebudchurch.com.

• Thomas-Yelverton Funerals and Cremations, 2704 Nash St. N.

• Gracie’s Village Shops, 4833 Nash St. N.

• Wilson Doughnut Shop, 525 Tarboro St. SW

• Brand Performing Arts Center, 5164 Lamm Road

• Oh My Lard, 103 S. Parker St., Elm City

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