Families wait out storm at local shelters
By Gary Popp
Published in News on August 28, 2011 1:50 AM
Children ran and played at the Salvation Army emergency relief shelter Saturday morning as wind and rain from Hurricane Irene whipped around outside.
For many of them -- as well as their parents -- it was the first time they had ever experienced a hurricane.
Sandra Rios, of Tommy's Road in Goldsboro, said she came to the shelter at 8 a.m. Saturday with her mother, sister-in-law, and 10 of her family's children, frightened by the forceful gusts of winds that shook her family's home Friday night and early Saturday morning.
"The winds were very strong, and we live in a mobile home. It was shaking. It was scary and our home is really old, and we have all these kids to take care of," Mrs. Rios said.
She said she was very happy that she and her family decided to come to the shelter.
"You feel very safe in a place like this," she said.
At least 90 percent of the 120 people who sought the comfort of the shelter were from Wayne County's Hispanic community -- a number attributable to the fact that many Hispanic people in the area live in mobile homes and have never been close to a hurricane, Mrs. Rios said.
"This may be the first time that they have experienced something like this," she said.
Fredia Mayfield and her sister came to the shelter at 7 p.m. Friday with 10 children looking for a safe place to stay while the storm passed.
Ms. Mayfield spent some of her time engaging the children at the shelter by reading stories, leading songs and organizing games.
"I used to be an after-school teacher, so working with kids is just kind of what I always do," she said. "It has helped keep the kids entertained and calm."
Ms. Mayfield said the sing-alongs included counting songs in English and Spanish to engage all the young children and to help keep their minds off the storm.
"My girl, who is in the third grade, wouldn't even know about the hurricane if they didn't talk to her about it in school," she said, adding that she was grateful to the school district because it was school officials who informed her of the shelter as an alternative.
Hazel Ellis was one of the Salvation Army soldiers who spent their weekend making a home for those seeking a safe, sturdy shelter.
Mrs. Ellis has been working as a volunteer for 18 years.
She said many of those who had come to the shelter on Friday and Saturday were a mix of immigrant farmers, people who did not feel safe staying in their homes and people who live on the street.
The staff of local volunteers received assistance from six Salvation Army soldiers from Raleigh, some of whom brought with them a Disaster Wagon -- a large Salvation Army truck and trailer with the ability to prepare and serve food and provide other disaster related services.
Mrs. Ellis and the other volunteers, many of whom don't speak Spanish, had to make an effort to get over the language barrier, she said, but everyone ended up getting what they wanted.
"Everybody has been really grateful," she said. "We are happy to be able to make everybody feel safe."