Thousands of volunteers rebuild after Hurricane Ireneby Mike Creswell
Hurricane Irene hit North Carolina’s coast two years ago – old news for most people.
But mention "Irene" to Carroll and Cheryl Voliva and they still cringe.
Their home in Bayboro, a city east of New Bern, was destroyed by the flood that resulted when Irene stalled over Pamlico Sound. Locals say the flooding and destruction from Irene were worse than from all the other hurricanes that have hit the coast over the past 100 years.
For example, of some 60 homes on Goose Creek Island, all but four were flooded.
"Our house was totally demolished in Hurricane Irene," said Carroll Voliva. Both Carroll and his wife have health problems; rebuilding by themselves was not possible.
"We didn't get any help from FEMA and we didn't know what we would do," he said.
But some time after the storm hit, they talked to NC Baptist Men, who have sent thousands of volunteers to help coastal residents like the Volivas recover. Soon the volunteers were working on a new house for Carroll and Cheryl.
In September this year, the Volvias will move into their new house, built by NC Baptist Men volunteers, who will hand over the keys but no bill or mortgage.
If past patterns hold, there will be weeping for joy by both the homeowners and the volunteers on that day.
Multiply that joy by 76: That's how many houses NC Baptist Men have rebuilt along the coast over the past two years. For the first three months or so after Irene, volunteers shoveled mud and cleared debris. By the fourth month, they began rebuilding, said Gerald Williams, "blue hat" site coordinator for NC Baptist Men in Bayboro.
NC Baptist Men receive operating funds from the North Carolina Missions Offering taken up by North Carolina Baptist churches across the state; more than half of this year's total offering will go to the organization. Disaster relief is the best-known and most visible of the 14 ministries carried out.
"Disaster relief is important because it gives us a chance to meet the people one on one and share the gospel message with them," Williams said. "Many of the people we have worked with in Pamlico County have church homes. Some do not, and we try to witness to them. Our crews always pray with the people that we help. Most of them we give a Bible to at the end of the job with the signatures of those who have worked on the home."
How many men and women volunteers have served?
"I don't know the number of volunteers, but the volunteer days have been over 8,000," he said. He praised the partnership with Bayboro Baptist Church, which contributed their education building to house and feed volunteers.
That use started right after the hurricane, said Scott Fitzgerald, Bayboro pastor.
"NC Baptist Men have made a huge impact on our community. When you drive around and see all of the yellow shirts, there is a sense of, wow, look at all those volunteers," he said.
"We had over 5,024 volunteers spend the night at our church over the last year, working on the disaster relief, and in that time all people know the yellow shirts are associated with NC Baptist Men. And we have heard it, time and time again, the appreciation from the people in the community as to the volunteers being here and what it has meant for this community," Fitzgerald continued.
"They have put on a bright face and they've given people who didn't think they had any hope – they have given them hope. And through that hope have been able to show love and care for our community around them," he said.
Most North Carolina Baptist churches will receive the North Carolina Missions Offering during September. For more information visit www.ncmissionsoffering.org or call (800) 395-5102.