With forecasts calling for a relatively mild 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, disaster-relief groups hope North Carolina residents will remember their neighbors still struggling to recover from last year’s storms.
More than 81,000 households registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the storm, and disaster-relief groups estimate that as many as 60 percent need charitable help to rebuild or repair their homes because they were un- or underinsured, don’t qualify for loans and had more damage to their homes than FEMA grants could cover.
Dozens of non-profits are at work trying to help, including many that have sent teams from out of state. The largest efforts are organized by groups with a long history in North Carolina: Habitat for Humanity, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and North Carolina Baptists on Mission.
The Baptist group alone has said it plans to repair 1,000 storm-damaged homes within the next two years, working from five locations in areas that suffered some of the worst flooding from the storm.
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“Based on the need, 1,000 homes is our goal,” said Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator for N.C. Baptists. “So we’re always asking for volunteers and money.”
Volunteers, who don’t need to be Baptist, sign up to work for a day, a weekend or longer through the Cary-based organization’s website, nando.com/baptistonmission. Volunteers must be old enough to have finished 6th grade, and those who sign up as a team must have at least two adults for every five students.
Workers are asked to choose their top three locations from the five where the Baptists have set up centers: in and around the areas of Goldsboro, Lumberton, Warsaw, Windsor and the Black River in Pender County.
Volunteers are not required to have special training, but Moss said, “If you’re signing up as a team, and you can recruit somebody who knows what they’re doing, we’d appreciate it.”
Across the half of the state affected by flooding, there remain houses waiting to be cleaned out more than six months after the storm, and volunteers are needed to remove the contents of those homes, pull up the floors and drywall and let the exposed studs dry.
Elsewhere, rebuilding is underway. So far, Moss said, teams have completed 17 houses and have many more in the works.
Habitat for Humanity volunteers also are working on Matthew-damaged homes. Gov. Roy Cooper was in Fayetteville on Thursday to see one of the group’s projects and meet the family whose home was being repaired.
While in Fayetteville, Cooper signed House Bill 5, a new law that waives job-search requirements and extends the unemployment insurance period for North Carolina residents who have survived natural disasters.
Mike Sprayberry, director of the N.C. Department of Emergency Management, said money appropriated by the legislature last fall for disaster relief has begun to flow. The N.C. Housing Finance Agency has received some of the funds, which it will disburse as grants to non-profits such as Baptists on Mission and the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Like the Baptists, the Methodists are open to volunteers of any faith, and workers are assigned to one of five centers run by the relief group throughout the areas worst hit by the disaster. For information about how to volunteer or to donate money, email the N.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the disaster hotline at 888-440-9167.
Both the Methodist and Baptist relief agencies say they have volunteers scheduled to work through the summer and are now recruiting people to help in August and beyond.