Even though it has been nearly nine months since Hurricane Matthew blew through eastern North Carolina, the aftermath is still being felt by many.

"I think folks would be shocked to know how many are still suffering," said Melissa Harrell, a licensed professional counselor, recently named program coordinator for Hope 4 NC.

The free grant-funded program is designed to ensure that survivors are connected to resources and assess how residents are dealing with the emotional toll of the disaster.

Easter Seals of N.C. and Virginia is the agency under which Hope 4 NC will operate, addressing the hurricane survivors in Wayne, Lenoir, Sampson and Edgecombe counties.

While many have resumed their lives in the months since the hurricane, Mrs. Harrell said, that is not the case for everyone.

Some are still living out of their vehicles, she said, or are homeless. To say nothing of the emotional ramifications that such a tragedy can leave behind in its wake.

"This program is designed to give people someone to listen to their journey," she said. "Counselors can work with people up to three times."

Those desiring to have more access to services will be referred to other agencies.

"This is a unique approach. Our counselors are crisis counselors," Mrs. Harrell said. "This is more of a non-traditional setting -- we'll meet them at their homes, at the library, at a church, wherever they are comfortable."

The program is free and counseling services are kept confidential, through Eastpointe.

Two counselors are assigned to each of the represented counties. The two working in Wayne County are Brittany Simon and Debbie Stancil, Mrs. Harrell said.

In addition to the immediate future, other outreach services are being planned, Mrs. Harrell said.

"We're looking to coordinate larger efforts, such as a survivor celebration," she said. "There are so many programs or even faith-based programs that people are not aware of, to connect them to resources."

That also holds true for the youngest segment of the population, she pointed out.

Children especially have been susceptible to the effects of the hurricane -- not only physically but emotionally, she said.

"As we began to approach the anniversary of last year's hurricane, we still have so many children displaced," she said. "We want to get into the schools and really be able to share with the children and hear their stories, work through those transitions."

For more information on the services, call 1-866-611-5651 or e-mail