Bayboro, N.C. — When Hurricane Irene devastated much of eastern North Carolina six months ago, many homes were lost, but hope was not.
Helping in the rebuilding are volunteers such as Mike Collins and his fellow church members.
Collins used his vacation time and own money to travel 600 miles to help storm victims in Pamlico County.
"We start taking a look where there is an area we can be of service," Collins said. "We knew about the hurricane and the (storm) surge and everything that occurred down here. There is a great need still."
Irene lashed the North Carolina coast for more than 12 hours on Aug. 27, 2011. Its storm surge pushed water up rivers, creating extensive flooding far inland.
Volunteers are helping people like George Midgette, who sheltered inland when the storm hit and came home to nearly nothing.
"It was terrible. I came back and looked at the house, and I was like, 'Oh, it's finished,'" he said.
But Midgette isn't a man to give up.
He got temporary housing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He didn't have insurance, so he's getting help from volunteer groups and paying professionals when he can.
"The financial burden is the biggest thing," Midgette said.
Finances are the largest hurdle to rebuilding in Pamlico, County Manager Tim Buck said.
"The key is money and money flow, and that's taken a while for some of our residents," Buck said.
He estimated that it could take the county five years to recover, based upon experience with past storms.
Buck said those earlier struggles, though, have taught people to weather the rough road to recovery.
"We like to say our residents are tough stock," he said.
Audrey and Ray Lupton have got their home back into livable conditions after it was ravaged by floods.
"As far as where we live – living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom – we're fine, and we're satisfied," Audrey Lupton said.
Collins said that residents have greeted volunteers with gratitude amidst the tough circumstances.
"We have felt very appreciated, welcomed in a very receptive environment," he said.
While the storm destroyed Midgette's home, it didn't bring down his spirit.
"I can adjust," he said. "It's not like I'm out in the street or staying with other family members. I've got a place to stay, so we're doing the best we can."