Faith-based organizations help Hurricane Matthew victims in Edgecombe County

Posted April 7, 2017 6:19 p.m. EDT

— Edgecombe County was one of the areas hit hardest by flooding after Hurricane Matthew, but help from FEMA is slow to come to the hundreds of people displaced by the flood, many who are still in temporary housing.

When flood water rushed into the area, families were forced to get to higher ground not knowing what to expect when they returned.

"We had gotten 18 inches in the house," said William Staton.

For Staton and his wife Elizabeth, this was their second major flood in 17 years.

"In Floyd the water came in and it went all the way up to the top of the house that time," William Staton said. "So, it completely destroyed the house."

Now, the couple is rebuilding their home for the second time.

"It's been really hard," Elizabeth Staton said.

Edgecombe County Manager, Eric Evans, said homeowners are frustrated as they wait for financial help from FEMA to rebuild. Eighty families are still in hotels and 90 have applied for FEMA trailers.

"It grows harder on folks. The weariness starts to set in," Evans said. "(FEMA officials) are telling us even if they go as fast as they can, it could take a year before we have projects in hand. So, just the prospect of that is very disheartening."

What buoys their hearts is help from groups like the United Methodist Disaster Response team who have made a two-year commitment to assist families like the Statons rebuild.

"They are doing things the family can't do themselves and that we as the local government just don't have the resources," Evans said.

Jason Duvall with the United Methodist Disaster Response said he likes being able to help those in need.

"To be able to somehow put a smile and give them hope and let them know they are loved is an overwhelming feeling for me," Duvall said.

Eighty percent of the homes in Princeville were underwater after Matthew, and 175 homeowners have applied for the FEMA buyout, and will not rebuild.

Volunteers with the Mennonite Disaster Service from Pennsylvania want to help the town survive and thrive.

"My life is pretty good and some people have problems like this, and if I can help them restore hope and get their house back, that's a good feeling," said Jerry Shank with Mennonite Disaster Service.

That good feeling is something the Statons share as they work alongside volunteers to rebuild their newly elevated home.

"I believe that recovery could not happen if it were not for these faith-based organizations," Evans said.

"They are a Godsend. I really appreciate it. Nobody but the Lord brought them here to help us," Elizabeth Staton said.

On Tuesday night, Edgecombe County will hold its third and final public meeting where residents can weigh in on the county's plan aimed at smart rebuilding. It will be held at the county administration building at 201 St. Andrew's Street at 6 p.m.