Hurricane Cleanup Unites North Carolinians

October 21, 2016 • United States

Families and churches join together in the Pinetops area to help one another after Hurricane Matthew.

Pinetops, North Carolina, is one of those small, tight-knit communities in the eastern part of the state where family members are often neighbors and neighbors often are as close as family.

Volunteer in the Carolinas

So, Felton Dickens Jr. did a double take when he drove by Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief trailers parked near Pines Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Though now a resident of Rocky Mount, about 15 miles away, he often returns to family and friends in the small town where he spent his junior high and high school years.

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Wanting to figure out what was going on, the curious visitor turned his car around to discover more about the organization he had heard was working on homes flooded by the Tar River and its tributaries in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Pleased with what he found about Samaritan’s Purse, Felton, a retiree, decided to spend most of the day Monday (October 17) volunteering at one of our work sites.

The location took him by surprise. It turned out that he knew the address of the home extremely well. He used to live right beside the house as a teenager. He had played basketball in the backyard. He had met the girl who would one day be his wife while walking down that street. His then next door neighbor, the homeowner Samaritan’s Purse had been helping, is Felton’s lifelong mentor.

A Sermon in Action

North Carolina Flood Hurricane Matthew: Felton Dickens Jr. worked on the home of his lifelong mentor, James Horne.

Felton Dickens Jr. volunteered to work on the home of his lifelong mentor, James Horne.

James Horne, a deacon at Pines Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, has lived at that address in Pinetops for nearly 40 years. When Felton was a boy, he noticed how conscientious James was about working hard and taking care of his family. That left a lasting impression.

“Deacon Horne has been a blessing and an inspiration to me in many ways,” Felton said. “That I can come back here and help him in this small way is special for me.

“It’s always good to hear a sermon. It’s better to see a sermon. Deacon Horne is a sermon in how he lives his life. He is a man of great character and integrity. Even in my life today, I pattern myself after him.”

North Carolina Hurricane Matthew: Volunteers gathered to pray as they worked on the home of deacon James Horne.

Volunteers gathered to pray as they worked on the home of deacon James Horne.

The house where Felton had lived was torn down after it was damaged by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. James rebuilt his neighboring home from the rafters down after the storm.

Though the waterline was lower this time after Hurricane Matthew, with four feet of water surging into James’ house, the damage is no less devastating.

“It’s heartbreaking for him and for us,” said Nancy Freeman, one of James’ sisters. “Everything flooded out—clothes, furniture. Thank you for coming out to help him.”

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers spent several days removing the destroyed contents, wall paneling, and flooring. James’ house was so waterlogged that the microwave seeped floodwater and stacks of dishes contained water between each layer of plates.

“Thank you for these people,” James said as he prayed with the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers. “I know it was you, Lord, who summoned them here.”

Extended Family, Shared Disaster

When Willie Farmer moved down the road from James, his cousin, in 1982, he continued the neighborhood tradition of holding gatherings in the adjoining backyards. But sharing that space takes on a different meaning after a hurricane when refrigerators, propane tanks, and porch steps crash into each others’ yards.

Samaritan's Purse volunteers worked on the home of Pinetops resident Willie Farmer.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers worked on the home of Pinetops resident Willie Farmer.

Along with the dislodged heavy items are dozens of other miscellaneous belongings, including cups, medicine bottles, house cleaner containers, and a lone flip-flop. Sweet potatoes are strewn throughout the yards, the byproduct of a nearby field.

Willie had rebuilt his home after Hurricane Floyd and had made several upgrades to it this past year, including partial wood flooring and new kitchen appliances. About a foot of water from Hurricane Matthew flowed through the house, absorbing into the wood and shorting out the appliances. Samaritan’s Purse volunteers spent hours helping him and his wife Zelma salvage belongings and prepare the house for repairs.

“We’ll recover from this, but it will take awhile,” Willie said.

Good Samaritans, Good Neighbors

Neighbor Sue Bynum’s own home is flooded, but she volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse to help clean up James’ and Willie’s homes before she did her own. Knowing that the volunteers would later come and work on her home too, Sue wanted to pitch in and help from the get-go.

Hurricane Matthew North Carolina: Sue Bynum was both a beneficiary and volunteer in Pinetops. Volunteer Mike Klein of Raleigh stands at right.

Sue Bynum was both a beneficiary and volunteer in Pinetops. Volunteer Mike Klein of Raleigh stands at right.

“I needed help, but I also felt like I needed to help others,” Sue said. “If they’re going to come and help me, I could go and help them, especially when the need is right across the street.”

Sue volunteered alongside childhood friend Bernice Anderson, a Pines Chapel member who had brought her granddaughter, Nia, to volunteer.

“Our church is like big family,” said Nia Farrow, 15. “We do everything together, especially helping people.”