Volunteers by Diane Lea

Here comes the good news we’ve been waiting for after almost three weeks of depressing video clips showing residences, buildings, cars, trees and docks damaged by tsunami-like waters flowing over Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. The Island Free Press announced that two of the most heralded events of the annual Day at the Docks celebration will take place on Saturday, September 28. The rescheduled events are the Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation Chowder Cook Off (a crowd pleaser that showcases local chefs) and the Annual Blessing of the Fleet. The news reassures us that the Islands’ resilient spirit is still with us and the effects of Hurricane Dorian can’t quell our residents’ get-up and go energy.

After the extent of the Dorian disaster became clear, I began to gather details of our Islanders’ efforts to push back the hurricane’s dire aftermath. I emailed my neighbor Tom Garrison, one of the stalwarts who volunteers at Radio Hatteras, and his wife Sandi, herself a recipient of the Governor’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award. Tom and Sandi were off Island during the storm but returned as soon as they were allowed in to lend a hand.  On September 14 Tom replied hurriedly to my inquiry regarding recovery efforts on Hatteras Island. It is now 11 days later, and the effect of rereading his words is powerful. Keep in mind that the work of these volunteers was happening ( and continues to happen) while we all waited for details from state and local officials regarding various kinds and sources of support including FEMA assistance, much of which was slow in coming. 

Here’s Tom.

“We have the Red Cross and Salvation Army giving out food. The food is cooked in Frisco at the Frisco Baptist Church and possibly elsewhere. Methodist and Baptist men are helping with physical labor and demolition.

“We have Coasties from Station Hatteras Inlet helping out on this island and Ocracoke. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 16-4 continues with assisting the Coast Guard in training and in verifying that Aids to Navigation haven’t drifted off-station and/or lost their reflective number boards.

“Radio Hatteras volunteers are airing Public Service Announcements.

“The local churches are in full swing storing and giving out food and cleaning supplies.

“The Hatteras Island CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is working with Social Services and others to help with flood debris removal, tree cutting, food and Rubbermaid tote deliveries and to run the Really Free Warehouse in Frisco. (RFW offers tools, fans, dehumidifiers, toiletries and other essentials.)  Sandi Garrison headed up volunteers there during the first four days it was open and reported that citizens were walking up and asking to help.”

The importance of this kind of community response is incalculable. It is not just the nourishing hot meals, cleaning supplies and moment-to-moment information that enable a community to carry on in the face of disaster. It is the human connection that assures us that, no matter what happens, we are cared for and part of something greater than ourselves. Thanks to all the Tom’s and Sandi’s out there. Long may you grace our Island home.

One thought on “Volunteers by Diane Lea

  1. Thank-you, Dianne, for a flattering portrayal of Sandi and I. I would like to add that locals walked in and volunteered; some of them joined the CERT as a result. We had numerous vacationers from several states away bringing items to help, such as fans, dehumidifiers (and not just one…many). Every day, folks brought items with them along with all their vacation stuff. Some visitors volunteered to help…and did, for the entire week. The Really Really Free Warehouse was a huge success and will close this week when all the supplies run out.

    People here are accustomed to these events, but this storm was a bad one.

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