LUMBERTON — As more and more families displaced by Hurricane Matthew are moving out of hotels and other temporary housing and and into more permanent circumstances, the urgency grows for donations of household items that they will need.
“Don’t stop with donations,” said Sharon Hunt, the city employee who has been overseeing operations at the warehouse at 2300 N. Cedar St., where donations for hurricane victims are being collected, stored and distributed. “We need lots and lots more. We need a multitude of items. We need anything that can be used to start a home with.”
Hunt and Linda Maynor Oxendine, Lumberton’s Public Services director, on Friday urged individuals, organizations, businesses and industries wishing to help those ravaged by the hurricane and resulting floods to shift donations from such immediate necessities as food and water to household items that will help people establish new homes. They said that there is now a tremendous need for such things as kitchen appliances, stoves and refrigerators, beds and other furniture, mattresses, sheets, pillow cases, blankets, towels, wash clothes, cleaning supplies, pots, pans and dishes.
Money that can be used to make those purchases are also encouraged.
Currently, there are about 445 families reported to be sheltered in local hotels, at least 120 of these families having homes which they are trying to get back into. Hunt said that these numbers don’t include families staying in hotels in other areas or with family members or friends.
“We are trying to get people back in their homes and better off than they were before the hurricane,” she said.
According to city officials, there were more than 600 homes in Lumberton destroyed by the flooding that engulfed the city in the days after Hurricane Matthew blew through on Oct. 8. A system has been set up at the warehouse where items are being gathered and tagged for homes that have been identified as needing help.
A care package, including cleaning items and other things needed to help the family get established in a new home, is being provided. A letter signed by the city’s mayor, Bruce W. Davis, and city manager, Wayne Horne, is included.
“As a part of this effort and on behalf of the City of Lumberton, we would like to provide you with a ‘new beginnings’ care package,” the letter reads. “Hopefully you will find the items very useful.”
Oxendine said that the city has joined with the United Way of Robeson County and the Robeson County Church and Community Center to ensure that recovery efforts are administered efficiently.
“These organizations handle these kind of situations on a daily basis,” Oxendine said.
Oxendine said that to receive items from the warehouse, an individual must fill out an application that includes their FEMA case number and driver’s license number. The application asks for a list of the items that are needed.
The application must be returned for review. Within seven days the applicant will be contacted and, if eligible to receive help, will be given a voucher, Oxendine said.
Oxendine said access to the warehouse is only by voucher. An appointment to go to the warehouse to pick up items must be made by calling Veronica McCloud at 910-671-3833. Items are distributed 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Anyone wishing to bring donations to the warehouse can do so by appointment, seven days a week at any hour. They should also call McCloud to set up a time.
“We do ask that we be contacted and told the day and time the donations will be arriving,” Oxendine said. “We also ask that we be called about two hours before the arrival time so we can be sure there is a staff member at the warehouse to accept the items.”
Friday was a busy day at the warehouse, both for donations arriving and items being distributed to hurricane victims.
Antoinette Moody, whose home on Nevada Street, in Sunset Heights, was lost in the storm, stopped by to pick up some items that will help her family establish permanent residency in a home on East Third Street. Moody, whose family includes six children, lived for a time in a tent after the storm.
Moody said that it is a slow process.
“On a normalcy scale from one to 10, I’m about seven,” she said. “… It’s hard adjustment. Even when you move on you look back and it hurts.”
Stephanie Blount, of Fairmont, stopped at the warehouse to pick out a stove from several stoves, refrigerators and other items just delivered by Rescue American Baptist Missions Inc. of North Wilkesboro. She has been using a grill to cook since the hurricane.
Larry Adams, director of Rescue American Baptist Missions, said he used his radio show on station WWWC in North Wilkesboro to spread the word that there are still a lot of hurricane victims in Robeson County needing help to establish permanent housing.
Three members of St. Luke Catholic Church in Mint Hill made a visit to the warehouse to inquire how their church could assist in recovery efforts. The group brought winter coats to be supplied to those in need, and said that after seeing what is needed, they plan to return with more donations.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.