Ayden, N.C. — A Pitt County woman who has brought comfort to countless troops by sending care packages overseas has found herself in need of some comfort as well. Local military families are returning the favor and helping the woman who is known as a pillar of the state’s military community.
Barbara Whitehead is the volunteer director of Give 2 the Troops in Greenville, which sends the care packages to service members at war. After Hurricane Irene struck North Carolina in late August, water flooded Whitehead’s house in the Pitt County town of Ayden and ripped open her roof.
“The rain poured in and poured in and poured in for 10 hours,” she said.
An outpouring of love followed the damage, as soldiers from Fort Bragg showed up at her doorstep ready to work.
“The Army family sticks together,” Whitehead said. “They’re defending the country. They’re laying down their lives for me, to protect us against the bad guys overseas, and they’re still coming home and giving back. It’s pretty humbling.”
Cleaning up from the flood has not been so easy. Whitehead’s house was built in 1926 and has lead paint on the walls and asbestos in the plaster. For decades, both have been outlawed in new buildings, and they now have to be replaced.
Whitehead estimates she and her husband, who are living in a hotel, will have to pay $20,000 to $25,000, or more, to make all the repairs. Whitehead’s second home, a warehouse in Greenville that holds the items to be donated to troops, has also been threatened.
The business that allows Whitehead to use its warehouse needs the space back by Jan. 1. She could move somewhere else, but that means she’ll probably have to pay.
“If I pay rent, that means that many care packages don’t get mailed,” she said.
As for her own house, Whitehead says she is applying for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help remove the hazardous materials from her home. So far, she has not been given approval.