09/19/11 — Churches collect food, supplies for struggling coastal families

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Churches collect food, supplies for struggling coastal families

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on September 19, 2011 1:46 PM

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Michelle Clark stacks food from Eureka United Methodist Church at Daniels Memorial United Methodist Church this morning. The food collected by Wayne churches will be taken to Pamlico County, whose residents were hard hit by Hurricane Irene. The coastal sections of the county were hit by a 7-foot storm surge that destroyed many homes.

When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross sends aid in many forms to those affected, from providing food and shelter to hosting a kitchen to give hot meals to those still without power.

But what happens when the Red Cross has exhausted its time in the affected areas and has to leave, pulling its additional resources?

Churches in the Wayne County area are pulling together to fill the gap and ensure that those in Pamlico County affected by Hurricane Irene are still able to receive assistance as they rebuild their lives.

Nearly a month after the storm battered the coast, the Red Cross' disaster relief response had cooled, leading Keith Sexton, the pastor at Oriental Methodist Church, to contact the eastern North Carolina district coordinator for disaster response, John Dutton.

Dutton, the pastor at Daniels Memorial United Methodist, responded by calling on all 66 churches in the district to donate food and cleaning supplies if they were able to assist in the Pamlico County cleanup.

Gail Watts, the office administrator at St. Peter the Fisherman Catholic Church, said there was a stark increase in need shown through a program the church sponsors, Fishes and Loaves Outreach, which provides food to those in need.

The program has been in existence for four years and typically provides nearly 500 families with groceries each month.

"Two weeks ago, we distributed 15 tons of food," she said of the aftermath of the hurricane. "We handled more food in last two weeks than all of last year."

That high traffic is what led Dutton to begin collecting donations.

"What a lot of churches realized was they had a problem to start with with people who need food on a daily basis and the hurricane compounded an existing problem," he said. "This was one way we could help folks from Pamlico County that are hurting so bad now."

Dutton personally made three trips to the coast in the past week and transported about 2,500 pounds of food.

Dutton said the drive is still accepting food and cleaning item donations, but that clothes, toys and others are not ready to be accepted yet.

Donation sites in the areas include:

* Daniels Memorial United Methodist on East Ash Street, accepting donations from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

* First United Methodist Church in Mount Olive, accepting donations from 8:30 until noon on weekdays.

* Rose Hill United Methodist Church in Rose Hill, accepting donations from 9 a.m. until noon on weekdays.

* Centenary United Methodist Church in Smithfield, accepting donations from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on weekdays.

"I'm so excited about the way people are responding and reaching out to other people," he said, adding the donation drive doesn't have an end date. "It will last as long as there's a need."