Helping our Neighbors after Hurricane Florence

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More than a dozen Carolina students spent their fall break helping in the recovery efforts in some North Carolina communities that were among the hardest hit by Hurricane Florence.

By Aaron Moger, University Communications

The students assisted in food and water distribution centers and helped clean flooded homes.

“The Carolina community has proven time and again that they are willing and ready to assist our neighbors who are going through this recovery process,” said Becca Bender, student programs officer at the Carolina Center for Public Service. “I think the fact that Carolina students and staff are willing to give time over the break to travel to other communities and help, shows that Tar Heels understand the impacts of these disasters and that it is a responsibility to our state to assist in the recovery.”

Bender spent fall break leading a group of students to Pollocksville, North Carolina, where they worked at a water and meal distribution center. In the days following Hurricane Florence, four feet of water covered the town’s streets.

“Pollocksville is a tiny town in eastern North Carolina that was severely affected by Hurricane Florence and does not have much infrastructure to bounce back quickly,” Bender said. “I think it is important for UNC volunteers to see a small community’s relief efforts.”

More than two hours west of Pollocksville, another group of Carolina students were helping a community in any way it could.

As part of the Carolina Center for Public Service’s APPLES Service-Learning program, a group of Tar Heels spent three days in Robeson County volunteering in relief centers and assisting in repairing houses damaged by flooding.

“We originally came to Lumberton because it’s a place where APPLES has continuously gone for each break,” said group co-leader Amy Cockerham, a junior. “This year we’re doing disaster relief because that’s what’s relevant.”

Initially, the service trip to Robeson County was scheduled to work with members of the Lumbee Tribe to learn about issues facing the area, but the storm quickly changed the students’ plans to help community members in need.

“The hurricane came out of nowhere and there’s a lot of disaster relief projects to be done. We shifted half of our trip to do so,” said Michelle He, a co-leader of the APPLES group. “There’s so much disaster, and there’s so much help that is needed. It’s worth giving up my fall break to help everyone.”