Local News

Groups provide support for storm victims

Posted April 20, 2011 9:21 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2011 9:22 p.m. EDT

— Charities are providing everything from basic necessities like food and clothing to assistance clearing debris to offering emotional support to victims of the storms that raked eastern North Carolina on Saturday.

Twenty-four people were killed when more than two dozen tornadoes ripped through 32 counties. Damage assessments so far have determined that 133 people were seriously injured, 21 businesses and 439 homes destroyed and 92 businesses and 6,189 houses significantly damaged.

"What we ended up finding was a disaster that was beyond the scope and scale of the local chapter," said Barry Porter, director of the American Red Cross chapter in the Triangle.

"Our volunteers have been doing the best they can to make an effective difference in the lives of people who have lost loved ones and those who have lost their homes and possessions and need immediate emergency assistance," Porter said.

The Red Cross focuses on meeting the victims' immediate needs and provides food, clothing and shelter, he said. Volunteers deliver 95 percent of the assistance.

The organization has been stretched thin by a number of disasters nationwide in recent months, and the suddenness of the tornado outburst created a challenge to meet the needs of North Carolina victims, Porter said.

In addition to meeting the immediate needs of storm victims, the Salvation Army also addresses longer-term issues like providing furniture and help with insurance costs and rent, Maj. Pete Costas said. The Salvation Army of Wake County had canteens up in the Cardinal Grove neighborhood in northeast Raleigh within a day of the storm, for example, to feed people whose homes were damaged.

"We're motivated by the love of God, and our mission is to serve humanity," Costas said.

The organization already ministers to homeless people in the community, so working with the people who have lost their homes because of a tornado is just an outgrowth of that mission, he said.

"There are a lot more people who are distressed – without power, without food, without the necessities of day-to-day life," he said.

The volunteers with the North Carolina Baptist Men try to return a sense of normalcy to storm victims by clearing debris and repairing damaged homes.

"There's nothing like being able to help somebody during a time of need – great need," volunteer Lin Honeycutt said. "Nothing is quite like knocking on someone's door that they've got a hole in their roof or they've got a big tree in their living room floor and say, 'We're going to take care of this for you today.'"

The Baptist Men have had 2,000 volunteers working in 14 counties since Saturday's storms, Greg Riggs said. They have cooked 10,000 meals for victims and have completed 200 of about 6,000 requests for assistance.

"It's really some tragic things," Riggs said. "It's a great opportunity for us in North Carolina to go out and work with the victims and give back some of what we've been given."

The volunteers usually take vacation from work and travel to disaster sites to lend aid, Honeycutt said.

"I can't say enough about how committed our volunteers are," he said. "To offer someone hope in the name of Jesus Christ, doing it as a ministry, that's a wonderful thing."

Likewise, Samaritan's Purse considers disaster relief a ministry, Luther Harrison said. The organization meets needs worldwide, but about 400 volunteers have already pitched in clearing debris and repairing damage in North Carolina, he said.

"Without volunteers, our tools are not self-propelled. They can't do anything," Harrison said.

Daniel Jellicorse said Samaritan's Purse teams more than anything want disaster victims to know that God loves them.

"When they see those (workers in) orange shirts show up with the trucks and the tools and the equipment, what they see is their situation is about to change," Jellicorse said. "God's here to bring some people who are willing to sweat and work and get dirty because they know that God cares about (people's) needs."