A week and 7,800 meals later, Florence food relief effort going strong

Published 7:02 pm Monday, September 24, 2018

The goal was $10,000. Monday afternoon, $10,000 had come and gone. Monday evening, a total of $11,525 had been raised by a “pop-up” relief organization in the form of a Washington carryout and catering business.

For the past week, Carryout by Chrislyn has been dishing up and delivering meals to those impacted by Hurricane Florence. Those meals have gone to people across eastern North Carolina — to many who haven’t had a hot meal since Hurricane Florence hit in the early hours of Sept. 14, leading to no electricity for some, downed trees for others and flooding for many.

Monday evening, Carryout’s team of volunteers, including food preparers led by owner Chrislyn Wedderien and drivers to deliver the goods, had delivered 7,800 meals, according to Marie Peedin, the relief effort’s organizer. The GoFundMe account Peedin launched last Tuesday had exceeded expectations.

Rob Sands volunteered to deliver food last week and had an unscheduled stop on his way back to Washington, waiting for President Trump’s motorcade to pass. Trump was in Havelock touring the destruction, one of several stops in eastern North Carolina that day. Sands was there delivering 250 Carryout meals to the First United Methodist Church.

“The church had sort of a (disaster relief) center there, and they were taking the meals that I had brought down there and distributing them to low income housing (areas),” Sands said. “They were very appreciative.”

The Carryout effort came to a head Saturday, as the East Second Street catering kitchen expanded to St. Thomas Episcopal Church’s kitchen around the corner and thousands of meals left Washington, destined for those in need in Havelock, Aurora, Haw Branch and Harkers Island.

“Saturday was insane. Saturday, we sent out 2,780 meals — on Saturday alone. This place was a madhouse,” said Wendy Thienpont, a Carryout Food Relief volunteer.

Thienpont works as a coordinator for the effort, finding places that need the help, determining how many meals are needed, then rounding up volunteers to cook and drivers to get the food to its destination. Getting that many meals out on Saturday took a community effort, stretching across county lines. Peedin reached out to eastern North Carolina disaster relief organization serving Pitt and Beaufort counties, F3/FIA (Fitness, Fellowship Faith/Females in Action), which put out a call for coolers to transport food. Thirty-six hours later, F3’s Tom Morse had 30 coolers to deliver to Washington, Morse recounted in a Facebook video. The coolers of food were then picked up by radio stations’ vans — KISS FM and 106.5 WSFL — for delivery.

“A huge thank you to Carryout by Chrislyn in Washington for preparing 2,000 meals yesterday for folks in Havelock. We joined with our sister stations to deliver three vans full of food to people who needed a good meal. We can all do incredible things when we work together,” read a post on 106.5 WSFL’s Facebook page.

“I didn’t know any of these people before this week, and I think it’s a great testament that this is God’s work,” Morse said in his video. “He just put the right people in the right place to make this happen.”

Thienpont said volunteers are still cooking — 250 meals went out to Belhaven on Monday — and there will be more delivered as long as needed.

“What we’re saying is, as long as there’s a need and as long the money keeps coming in, we’re going to continue. We’re definitely going to be doing this this week,” Thienpont said. “Havelock is still in a bad way. And we’ve not been able to get into Brunswick County. I’m trying to remember (Hurricane) Floyd — Floyd, people were needing help for weeks afterward.”

To donate to Carryout by Chrislyn Food Relief Fund, visit the store at 128 E. Second St., Washington, or donate to the GoFundMe site, www.gofundme.com/carryoutsflorence-food-relief.