North Carolina Churches Unite to Provide Relief

by Kassie Kirsch

Hurricane Florence may have dissipated, but the damage in its wake is not so quick to go. The estimated cost of damage is at least $38 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal, and recovery for some states will likely take more than a year.

The storm caused a total of 53 fatalities and left thousands of other people displaced from their homes. Now most of the temporary shelters are shutting down, leaving many people stuck with the choice of living in tents or their mold-infested houses. 2004 Cedarville graduate Courtney Mahon’s house had part of the roof crushed by a tree, allowing water to pour into her home, and after eleven days of no power, it was a greenhouse for mold.

“It looked perfectly fine on the outside; it looked like there was no damage whatsoever,” said Mahon.  “But as soon as we ripped the walls out, there was very nasty mold growing there.”

She and her four children would likely be living in tents if not for their church. Cornerstone Baptist Church and Berean Community Church, located in the cities of Wilmington and New Bern of North Carolina, are working together to create the Coastal Relief Fund.

The fund provides labor from the churches to aid the recovery process, as well as donations towards purchasing new appliances, furniture, and building supplies and services for the afflicted families. There are seven families between the churches with homes that are currently uninhabitable, and countless others in need of varying degrees of relief.

Well after the hurricane has come and gone, mold from the water damage still has to be dealt with. Insulation has to be torn out and ceilings re-installed. [Photo courtesy of Coastal Relief Fund]

Trevor Love, Cedarville graduate in the class of 2006, first proposed the idea of the Coastal Relief Fund to the elders at Cornerstone Baptist. He was not personally affected and will not see any of the money from the fund, but was moved to do something by the needs he saw around him.

“You have hurricane insurance, but hurricane insurance won’t cover it if there is a flood, even if the flood is caused by a hurricane,” said Love. “It’s frustrating. There are quite a few families who have lost essentially everything, and insurance says ‘Sorry, since the water hit the ground first, before it came into your house, we don’t cover that.’”

Courtney Mahon’s furniture and appliances have been removed from her house and discarded, no longer usable. All of her house’s walls and floors have been ripped out, leaving the house to dry. The next step is to fix their roof, before having a company come in and spray the mold.

However, Mahon stated that there was a four-week wait list to simply get a quote for the roof, before any work even gets done. After her house is sprayed, they have to go in and wipe off the dead mold. The next step is to put new drywall up and refloor, and only after that they can begin to work on the plumbing, paint, buy more appliances and finally move back into their home. Courtney is hoping to be back into her house by Christmas, but she admits that even this is probably unrealistic.

In addition to time, this will take a lot of money that the family doesn’t have. Thankfully, with the tree smashing into their roof, most of the water came into their house from the top down and so insurance will cover it. Many other families have to figure out how to cover more than $40,000 of expenses with no end in sight.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is one of the many groups that have come to assist people, but they are giving an average of $11,000 to each family, which is not nearly enough. Trevor Love, who has been helping with the demolition efforts, says that this is hard on everyone.

The goal of the Coastal Relief Fund is to provide hope for these families and a way for them to get the help they need. While recovery efforts will take time, the body of Christ is banding together so that no one has to go through it alone.

“It would be great if you are covered by insurance,” Love said. “But when it’s not, you just look at everything you are pulling out of your house and going, ‘I have to find a way to replace this, and where is the money going to come from?’”

Kassie Kirsch is a junior English major and a staff writer for off-campus news. She loves the outdoors, animals of all kinds, and reading more books than she should.

All photos courtesy of Coastal Relief Fund

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