ALCOA, Tenn. (Sept. 26, 2018) – The Rev. Shannon Ross was moved to tears by Holston Conference’s delivery of buckets full of cleaning supplies to Bladen County, North Carolina, where she serves two small churches.
“The Lord has humbled me through this time, and opened my eyes,” Ross said on the telephone Monday night, just a few hours after a trailer driven by Holston United Methodists was unloaded at Clarkton United Methodist Church. “We all look for opportunities to help and wonder if it ever makes a difference. I’m so full of joy and happiness to see what’s happening.”
Led by the Rev. Harry Howe, Holston Conference has already made three trips to eastern North Carolina to help residents recovering from Hurricane Florence. The storm hit the Carolina coast on Sept. 13, flooding roads and homes and leaving thousands without electricity. In all, Holston Conference has provided about 3,500 “hygiene kits” and about 1,800 “cleaning kits.”
On Sept. 18, a trailer load of kits was delivered to a North Carolina Conference disaster-response center in Washington, N.C.
On Sept. 20, two trailers full of kits were delivered to Ann Street United Methodist Church in Beaufort, N.C., and a fire station in Davis, N.C.
On Sept. 24, Ross met the Holston trailer as it arrived at the Clarkton church. She had earlier called the North Carolina Conference office to request cleaning supplies for neighbors she knew were hurting. Ross’s call was relayed to Howe at Project Crossroads in Marion, Virginia, where Holston stockpiles cleaning buckets and hygiene kits until they are needed.
In response to the call from Clarkton, Howe and his helpers loaded the last 181 cleaning kits at Project Crossroads, then picked up 100 more at First Broad Street United Methodist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee.
“We want our folks to know that we are already sending these buckets, and they are already serving people in a very real way,” Howe said, adding that more cleaning and hygiene kits are needed immediately.
The buckets from Holston were quickly parceled out in Bladen County, Ross said.
“There are 17 homes on a street over from the church that are already being gutted and cleaned out,” she said. The pastor sent buckets to those homes and to several churches providing assistance to their neighbors.
Ross said she saved back several cleaning kits to send to Kelly, N.C., where many homes were only reachable by helicopter or boat earlier this week.
At Ann Street United Methodist Church in Beaufort, staff member Julia Royall met the disaster-response trailer from Holston Conference when it arrived Sept. 20. Royall said she was struck by the “generosity of the people.”
“When we give people a chance to do good, they really take advantage of it,” Royall said.
With an average worship attendance of 250, Ann Street is taking a leading role in helping neighbors in Carteret County, especially the isolated “Down East” communities in the coastal plain region of the state. The church is operating a “free store,” hosting free community meals, and accepting and delivering donations of bottled water, infant formula, mops, buckets, dish detergent, and other supplies around the clock.
On Sept. 24, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and other North Carolina Conference leaders visited Ann Street and helped unload 100 donated cleaning kits, Royall said.
“It’s our community. It’s our job and it’s part of our calling to help our neighbors, not just our own church,” Royall said.
Holston Conference church members should continue to assemble cleaning and hygiene kits, said Jim Fetzer, disaster response coordinator. Church members should contact their district offices to learn where kits are being collected in their area.
Other groups that wish to join Holston Conference in collecting hurricane-relief supplies should email the Rev. Tim Jones, communications director, for information.
Holston Conference is on standby to send “response teams” to help flooded areas whenever disaster-relief officials in the Carolinas are ready, Fetzer said.
“Flooding is still blocking response to areas of need,” Fetzer said. “Patience is the word for us [while] waiting to respond.”