Volunteers head south for Florence aid

Published 10:24 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Walmart shoppers on North Main Street donated money and supplies to pro staffers with The Fallen Outdoors on Wednesday to help people who are still enduring the damages of Hurricane Florence.

Pro staffers Teri Stanley, Jaclyn Casey and Shane Hale brought a trailer to fill with donations. There’s a demand for everything from clothing and water to baby formula and feminine hygiene products. The group collected $350.11 in donations on Wednesday, according to an email from pro staffer David Mills.

“The people are in dire straits right now. They need our help,” said Billy Richardson, one of the donors on Wednesday. “They can’t get out to go to work. Most of them can’t get out to go to the grocery store. We need to just help them and support them. I know they’d do the same for us if we were in that same situation.”


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The situation is still dire for the areas that were hit hard by Florence. As of Tuesday, there’s been at least 37 people killed by storm-related incidents since Florence made landfall Friday morning, including 27 in North Carolina, CBS News reported on Tuesday.

There are 343,000 people without power in North Carolina, and nearly 36 inches of rain has fallen on Elizabethtown, N.C., while other towns in the state have seen roughly 30 inches since Thursday.

“There’s still a lot of people out there without power, without water and without food,” Hale said at the Walmart collection point.

The East Coast community of TFO chapters has worked together to collect as much as they could to personally deliver to residents in North Carolina. The nationwide, veteran-operated nonprofit of all-volunteer active duty or armed services veterans provides therapeutic outdoor experiences like hunting and fishing trips, with more than 40 operating teams across the country, according to Mills.

The Virginia and North Carolina teams have been on the ground in impacted areas and have been collecting donations since Florence made landfall on Friday. Stanley said she and her team plan to fill up two trailers of donated supplies for volunteers to bring into devastated neighborhoods by boat.

“This stuff isn’t going to sit somewhere and wait for someone to come get it,” she said. “It actually goes with pro staff directly. It’s packed in a truck and goes from truck directly to boat and then to people. You go house to house and say, ‘Hey, what are you missing?’”

Mills wrote that there are two TFO teams operating in North Carolina as of Wednesday, one in the Fayetteville area and the other around Jacksonville. Mills left on Sunday with tarps, nails, gloves and gas cans to head south toward the Richlands area of North Carolina, where roads were impassable.

“The flood waters were so high, roads were washing and eroding out, and more and more roads were closed,” he wrote. “I was on the phone with Alan McCosley from Team NC, and we were trying to find a route for me to get into the area.  Another friend told me that the Cajun Navy stated all roads were closed and no one could get in or out, but this group of vets was not going to let that stop us.”

They handed out food and water, cut down trees and filled up generators. Damaged roofs were covered in tarp.

“We helped another family who had a tree on top of their house,” Mills wrote. “A tornado appeared to have ripped through this neighborhood, and trees were thrown and toppled everywhere.  This family was living in their garage; we helped with cutting trees around the yard and left with giving them some food and water.”

The volunteers took some time to rest and recharge this week before they head back in a few days with donations by the trailer-load.

“I don’t know how far it will go, but it will go somewhere,” Stanley said. “It will go as far as it can go.”

Suffolk donations will continue to be collected at Schadel Sheet Metal Works Inc., 302 S. Saratoga St. Donors can also visit The Fallen Outdoors Support Page on Facebook, email fallenoutdoorsvirginia@gmail.com or call 705-4756.