Volunteers, Feed the Children serve Belhaven and beyond

Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2018

BELHAVEN — Earlier this week, three tractor trailers left Nashville, Tennessee, carrying a critical payload of non-perishable food and supplies, items crucial to hurricane recovery; their destination — Belhaven.

The goal was simple — to put food and cleaning supplies in the hands of the people who need them most. With an army of volunteers helping distribute on Wednesday, there were enough supplies on hand to supply 1,200 families for a week, offering aid to Belhaven and the surrounding region.

The effort in Belhaven on Wednesday was brought to fruition through the efforts of several organizations, both national and local, including Feed The Children, the NASCAR Foundation, the Greenville-based Churches Outreach Network and local mayors in Belhaven, Washington and Greenville.

“The whole premise is to make sure nobody has to worry about eating while they recover from the storm,” Belhaven Mayor Ricky Credle said.

The volunteers at the distribution came from a variety of places, both in terms of geography and life circumstances. Some came from Greenville, East Carolina University staff eager to lend a hand. Others came from Vidant Health to help serve the community. Others still were simply individuals with good hearts and noble intentions of helping their fellow man.

“We’ve got a bunch of volunteers, from citizens to pastors, you name it,” Credle said. “There’s been an outpouring of support from our community and surrounding communities to make this event happen and make it a success.”

HARD AT WORK: Volunteer Dana Fadley, an employee with Vidant Medical Center, came from Greenville to offer his labor during the distribution. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

Using space offered by Belhaven Town Councilman Ricky Radcliff, volunteers set up shop at Inner Banks Storage on Wednesday, serving car after car, with people coming from Belhaven, Pantego, Hyde County and beyond. With support from the Belhaven Police Department, traffic at the distribution site flowed smoothly in a double line of vehicles throughout the afternoon.

While Credle gave credit to Washington Mayor Mac Hodges and Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly for their efforts in helping organize the distribution, a fourth mayor was also heavily involved in the process through his role with Feed the Children: Mayor Mike Ghassali, of Montvale, New Jersey, made the 8.5 hour trip to Belhaven to help make the operation happen.

“We have six warehouses that we stock for events like this,” Ghassali said. “When there is a disaster like this, that’s when our disaster relief products get into motion. In those six warehouses, we have the essentials — hygiene products, cleaning supplies, shelf-stable products — things that people would need during a disaster.”

HOME SWEET HOME: Belhaven resident Brenda Spencer was among those who volunteered at the distribution. Spencer said she hopes to see the community pull together to recover from Hurricane Florence. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

Ghassali said the products distributed to each family are enough to supplement a family through a week.

A third organization — the Church Outreach Network and the organization’s Interfaith Clergy — will helped make the connection with Feed The Children. At the helm of that organization, Pastor Rodney Cole Sr. has sought ways to help in the wake of Florence.

“Mayor P.J. Conley helped set us to work with the mayors in Washington and Belhaven,” Coles said. “The Church Outreach Network is in a partnership with Feed the Children, so that’s how they brought the trucks down.”

The NASCAR Foundation paid the cost of shipping. As for the leftovers, local churches will help connect those in need with those resources.

While Wednesday’s distribution made a significant impact in the short term, there is still work to be done in Belhaven and the surrounding area in the long term. Going forward, Credle made a pledge to stick with the area’s residents through the end.

“This is just the beginning of a long-term recovery project,” Credle said. “We’ll be with them to the end, until everybody is fully recovered. We’re not just going to feed them and let them go. Some people lost everything, so we’re not going to just stop today. We will continue on.”