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AmeriCorps Volunteers Dispatched to Help N.C., More Volunteers Needed

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ROCKY MOUNT — Neighbors are helping neighbors clean up the damage left by the flood waters and so are volunteers. However, the supply of volunteers is falling with the water level, and more aredesperately needed.

Some college students are traveling great distances to pitch in and help flood victims.

A distribution center in Rocky Mount is a huge operation, and it is being run in part by college students who are serving a one-year stint in AmeriCorps. For the next month, they will be helping flood victims in North Carolina.

Heather Gordon is only 23 years old, but she is giving orders toNational Guardsoldiers at a disaster relief center.

She belongs toAmeriCorps, a domestic peace corps that travels the country doing community service projects. Sixteen AmeriCorps members were dispatched to North Carolina to help with flood victims.

"I think there is not enough community service in the United States, and I think that this is one way that I can give back. I've been so blessed in my life," said Liz Puckle, AmeriCorps member.

AmeriCorps members are running two distribution centers in Rocky Mount supervising deliveries, sorting and packing supplies and organizing volunteers.

Ralph Webb stopped by to pick up donations for teachers and students at Edgecombe Community College. Now, he plans to recommend AmeriCorps to his students.

"These kids are a cut above. They're intelligent. They're motivated. They've got a heart. As for as I'm concerned, God sent them here to us," said Webb.

John Carrico is helping change people's perceptions of Generation X. He helped flood victims in North Dakota two years ago, and he just signed on for another year with AmeriCorps.

"When I tell somebody that I'm 21 years old and that I'm helping run theFEMAwarehouse, I think they are a little shocked. I think they are relieved that there are some people our age in the country that are willing to step up right now," said Carrico.

Members of AmeriCorps have spent time in North Carolina. They come in every now and then to teach disaster preparedness courses.

When the students are done, they will get a $4,700 scholarship to go back to school.

There is still a tremendous need for volunteers, but the laborers are few.

"I would say that the way people save up all that goodwill and Christmas spirit, they should start spending it," said volunteer Michelle Barnett.

Gestures of goodwill do not come with a price, but the cost of free time to overworked volunteers is mounting as fast as the debris piling up outside flooded-out homes.

Barnett has been helping a group of church volunteers clean out water-gutted homes since Floyd's waters began to recede.

She is a college student who has been spending more time shoveling trash than pushing a pencil. She and numerous other volunteers have been averaging about 10 hours a day volunteering.

"I went to Raleigh back to school today, and thought I was going to pass out. I'm really tired. It's exhausting," said Barnett.

A week ago, Governor Jim Hunt made a statewide appeal for more volunteers.

The pastor of the church Barnett is helping out said they were expecting a shipment from Winston-Salem of supplies and volunteers. Monday, the pastor was told only the supplies were coming.

There is also a shortage of volunteers to care for animals saved from the flood waters. Animal shelters throughout the eastern part of the state are beyond capacity.

At the Tarboro Animal Shelter, workers converted some outdoor space to keep some dogs dry. The shelter is located in the 2900 block of Main Street. If you are interested in volunteering, just show up.


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