Towns Recover along the Lumber River: Lumberton, NC
It’s been two months since Hurricane Matthew devastated cities across the east coast. In Lumberton, North Carolina, a Robeson County town hit especially hard by the storm, people are still seeking relief aid. Many families are still displaced from their homes, but many more are starting the steps to rebuild. That’s where the Robeson Church and Community Center comes in. Outside the building, a line of people await any help they can get. Inside, the center and the Red Cross have joined forces to offer any help they can give.
When walking into the Robeson Church and Community Center, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Families seeking assistance fill a tiny waiting room. To the right, workers are in cramped cubicles, doing their best to be as efficient and helpful as possible. After walking through the waiting room and going down a short, tight hallway, patrons can open a door that leads them to a huge sign of hope: a giant warehouse floor filled with any essential items one would need. There are toiletries, cleaning supplies, bottled water, canned goods, and more. And the supplies don’t stop there. The warehouse is also filled with clothing, toys, books, furniture and more that people can choose from, making the holidays after the hurricane just a little bit easier.
“We just happened to have a storm. We do this 24/7 since 1969.”
The warehouse, dubbed “The Football Field”, is run by Robeson Church and Community Center, and they’ve been helping residents long before Hurricane Matthew struck in October. According to the center’s Director of Finance Bridgit Bass, “We just happened to have a storm. We do this 24/7 since 1969.” It’s non-stop work for the employees at the center, which runs “the gamut of helping 30 families to 100 families in a day.” Luckily, for all of those involved, the effects of the hurricane have had some positive aspects. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of blessings and giving from all over this country,” Bass says. “People have been so generous.”
Robeson Church and Community Center may be helping flood victims, but that doesn’t mean they escaped the storm unscathed. Their old building flooded during the hurricane, forcing them into their new location. “We salvaged what we could from our flooded premises,” Bass explains, but goes on to say, “The rest went in the landfill because it was wet and it was destroyed by the flood.” This has created hurdles for the center in their relief efforts. “Normally when someone comes in and needs our help we can help them in five different ways. Now we’re limited.”
Martha Sinclair is one of the many people seeking help from the Robeson Church and Community Center. She’s already gotten help fixing the roof of her house, but now she needs to fix the windows and siding. She lost curtains, blinds, household items, and is even without a bed to sleep on. Luckily, home repairs are coming along quickly and she’s been able to live with her daughter in the meantime. Much like the workers and volunteers at the center, she has hope for the future and that God will get her through this difficult time. “I just put it in the hands of the boss man.”
Luckily, the center has the help of the Red Cross in relief efforts. They shared their previous premises with the organization, they share their current premises with the organization, and a lot of times they end up trying to help the same victims.
While the Robeson Church and Community Center is making sure families have clothes on their backs and food on their table, the Red Cross is doing their best to make sure everyone has a roof over their head. As Red Cross Executive Director for the area Phil Harris explains, “We want to make sure that people have good, clean housing available, and that’s what we’re
doing.” The hope is to meet that goal by any means necessary, be it putting people in shelters, getting friends or relatives to take them in, or finding any vacant hotel room or house that could be of use. They have their workers going out and canvassing neighborhoods for any clean, available housing. It’s a task easier said than done. A lot of the housing in Lumberton, occupied or vacant, was destroyed. Hotels and shelters are filled with people displaced from their homes. Throughout Robeson County, 640 households have been placed in hotels. It’s not going to be a quick fix, but the Red Cross is going to see it through. “The Red Cross is committed to being there for the long term,” Harris says. “Could be two months, could be two years.”
To date, Robeson County has seen nearly 18,000 of its residents apply for aid. Over $14 million has been given out for housing aid and nearly $8 million for other disaster-related needs.