Migrant workers pour into shelters

Registration often slow

Staff WriterAugust 27, 2011 

  • The state is coordinating with the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, N.C. Baptist Men and N.C. Social Services to shelter and feed evacuees. Mass Care Support trailers and mobile animal trailers are on standby in Halifax and Northampton counties to support those shelters.

    Shelter locations:

    Bladen County

    Bladenboro Middle School, 910 South Main Street, Bladenboro

    Bladen Lakes Elementary School, 9554 Johnston Town Road, Elizabethtown

    Clarkton School of Discovery, 10000 North College Street, Clarkton

    Elizabethtown Middle School, 1496 Hwy 701 S, Elizabethtown

    Tar Heel Middle School, 14888 NC 87 W, Tar Heel

    Brunswick County

    North Brunswick High School - 1395 Scorpion Drive, Leland

    West Brunswick High School - 550 Whiteville Road, Shallotte, (pet-friendly shelter- dogs and cats only, owners must stay at the shelter with their animals, please bring pet's food)

    South Brunswick High School- 280 Cougar Road, Southport

    Carteret County

    Atlantic Elementary School, Atlantic

    Newport Middle School, Newport (pet-friendly)

    West Carteret High School

    Columbus County

    East Columbus High - 32 Gator Ln, Lake Waccamaw

    Edgewood Elementary - 317 East Calhoun Street, Whiteville

    Guideway Elementary - 11570 Swamp Fox Highway East, Tabor City

    Craven County

    Havelock High School

    Vanceboro Farmlife School Vanceboro

    Brinson Memorial Elementary School, New Bern

    Benn Quinn Elementary School, New Bern

    Duplin County

    Wallace Elementary School - 4266 NC 11 South, Wallace

    BF Grady Elementary - 2627 North NC 11 & 903 Albertson

    James Kenan High School - 1241 NC 24 & 50 Hwy, Warsaw

    Halifax County

    T.J. Davis Recreation Center, Roanoke Rapids

    William R. Davie Middle School, 4391 U.S. 158, Roanoke Rapids

    Enfield Middle School, 13697 N.C. 481, Enfield

    Hertford County

    Hertford County High School, Ahoskie

    Johnston County

    Smithfield Selma Sr. High School, 700 E. Booker Dairy Rd., Smithfield

    Jones County

    Maysville Elementary School

    Jones County Civic Center, Trenton

    Comfort Elementary School, Comfort

    Martin County

    Riverside High School, Williamston

    Nash County

    Englewood Baptist Church, 1350 South Winstead Ave. in Rocky Mount

    New Hanover County

    Eaton Elementary School, Wilmington

    Noble Middle School - 6520 Market St., Wilmington (pet-friendly shelter- dogs and cats only, owners must stay at the shelter with their animals, please bring pet's food)

    Dorothy B Johnson Elementary School - 1100 McRae St. Wilmington

    Northampton County

    Northampton Cultural and Wellness Center, Jackson

    Onslow County

    Dixon Middle School, Holly Ridge

    Jacksonville Commons Middle School

    Richlands High School

    Swansboro High School

    White Oak High School, Jacksonville

    Southwest Middle School, Jacksonville

    Pamlico County

    Pamlico Community College, Arapahoe (pet-friendly)

    Pender County

    Malpass Corner Elementary School - 4992 Malpass Corner Road, Burgaw

    Burgaw Middle School - 500 South Wright Street, Burgaw (pet-friendly shelter- dogs and cats only, owners must stay at the shelter with their animals, please bring pet's food)

    Topsail Elementary- 17385 US Hwy 17, Hampstead

    Pitt County

    Farmville Central High School, Farmville

    D.H. Conley High School, Winterville

    Welcome Middle School, N.C. 11, Greenville

    Sampson County

    Sampson Middle School, 1201 W. Elizabeth St., Clinton

    Union Elementary School, 10400 Taylors Bridge Hwy, Clinton

    Wilson County

    Raleigh Road Baptist Church, 4150 Raleigh Road Parkway in Wilson

— Hurricane shelters in Rocky Mount and Wilson were unexpectedly crowded Friday with migrant workers fleeing inland from their jobs as seafood pickers near the coast.

Buses dropped off workers from Columbia, along the Scuppernong River and Albemarle Sound, at Red Cross emergency shelters in Rocky Mount and Wilson on Friday afternoon, ahead of Hurricane Irene.

Fifty-two workers came to the Rocky Mount shelter at Englewood Baptist Church, on one bus arranged by their employer, Captain Charlie's Seafood, Inc. The evacuees are primarily from Mexico, working in the state on a six-month contract with the company.

The 52 workers joined 23 other evacuees who stayed in the Rocky Mount shelter Thursday night. The shelter will continue to take in people throughout the weekend, despite already being over capacity.

"We will let them in and do what we can do for them," said Ron Ashby, the Red Cross volunteer working at the shelter. "We won't turn anybody away ... we'll just take it as it comes."

None of the workers speak English; the Red Cross had to call in an interpreter, Edith Serrano, from Nash County Department of Social Services to register them and collect emergency contact and family information.

A bus load of people

When the county called her in to assist, Serrano was expecting to encounter four or five migrant workers, not a bus load.

"When I got into that room, I was like 'Whoa, a whole room packed with Hispanic women,'" she said.

Registering the evacuees took about two hours, and she stayed to assist Red Cross volunteers at the shelter throughout the day to make announcements and let the workers know when meals would arrive. Serrano said she's not sure when or how all the workers will get back down to Columbia after the storm.

Mariana Sauceda, 52, along with her niece and some co-workers, were trying to nap on one of the cots set up in the Baptist church's gym Friday afternoon.

She picks meat from oysters at Captain Charlie's, and was glad she was evacuated from the shore.

"For them it's good because it's a lot safer here for them; their safety comes first," Serrano said, interpreting for Sauceda.

This isn't Sauceda's first hurricane. She has been coming to North Carolina to pick seafood for about 10 years and remembers Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

"You're always going to be a little scared because of the uncertainty, but you just have to leave it in God's hands," she said through Serrano.

50 show up in Wilson

More Hispanic workers piled into the Red Cross shelter in Wilson, 20 miles south of Rocky Mount.

About 50 migrant workers from Lake Mattamuskeet, in Hyde County near Pamlico Sound, were dropped off by their employer, Mattamuskeet Seafood.

The Red Cross shelter at Raleigh Road Baptist Church had no evacuees Thursday night, but when the migrant workers arrived, it expanded the shelter into an old sanctuary area.

"With this, you never know how many you may get; you may get 50, you may get two," said shelter manager Brenda Pender.

Edi Ovardo is a crab picker in Lake Mattamuskeet and was bused to Wilson with his wife Friday.

Ovardo has been picking crabs there for over a decade, and weathered Hurricane Isabel in a shelter inside of a school. The shelter at Raleigh Road Baptist is much nicer, he said.

By late Friday afternoon, the number of people at the Rocky Mount shelter had grown. Some residents from Tyrrell County arrived in a senior citizen van paid for by the county.

She needs oxygen

Carolyn Harrison, 73, left her mobile home in Gum Neck, just outside Columbia, only because she needs to be able to plug in her oxygen machine.

"I've got too many things going on in this old body," Harrison said. "If it weren't for medical reasons, I wouldn't have left."

Harrison has seen many hurricanes; Irene doesn't worry her. Her sister, Pearl Selby, however, was a little more concerned.

"They kept talking about how those winds are going down, and I got scared, so I left," said Selby, 77.

The sisters and their two friends brought their Bible studies and crossword puzzles to keep them busy at the shelter over the weekend.

While sitting at a round table, their bags surrounding them, the women reminisced about the delight that a cup of coffee and their backyard view of Gum Neck brings after a good rain.

"It's a little miracle," Selby said.

katelyn.ferral@newsobserver.com or 919-932-8746

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