In the aftermath of Florence, Zion Shelter and Kitchen rebuilds

Published 5:25 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2018

As the floodwaters of Hurricane Florence receded in Washington, and damage surveys began, perhaps one of the hardest hit of the area’s nonprofits is also a critical lifeline for Beaufort County’s most vulnerable.

During the storm, Zion Shelter and Kitchen was inundated by more than five feet of floodwaters. Suffering severe structural damage, and losing critical equipment to carry out its mission, the losses at the shelter would have been enough to stop operations for many nonprofits.

For Zion founder Robert Harris and his son, Keith, along with the volunteers who staff the shelter, that simply wasn’t an option.

“On the Wednesday before the storm came, we moved the men out to a hotel,” Robert Harris said. “We came the day after to see what had been done and saw where the water line was. We started pumping out, but the pumps were too small. We got some larger pumps, and we found everything from about five feet off the floor was underwater.”

Nevertheless, thanks to the use of an outdoor range, the kitchen was able to start serving those in need the Friday after the hurricane and has continued every day since. In the month since the hurricane, the group has tackled rebuilding the shelter with the same enthusiasm.

“Through continuous efforts of a variety of people, the shelter has been completely torn apart with plans to replace all of the walls, electric, plumbing, appliances and kitchen facilities that were ruined in the floodwaters,” a release from the shelter stated. “The shelter will remain closed for approximately seven more weeks as waterproofing and rebuilding occurs.”

DAMAGED EQUIPMENT: Cleanup efforts remain ongoing at the shelter. Most of the nonprofit’s equipment was a total loss after the storm.

The shelter and kitchen, though resilient, still has a long road ahead to recover fully. From replacing walls and tiles and the shelter’s physical structure, the nonprofit still has considerable financial needs to cover its recovery.

Thus far, the community response has been generous. A fundraiser organized by local attorney Watsi Sutton brought in a total of $4,000, with a significant gift of $1,500 from Bishop Rosie S. O’neal and Koinonia Christian Center of Greenville. The remainder of the funds raised came from Davis Chapel Church in Washington, Sutton’s office and approximately 60 individuals who donated both online and in person.

“We’re getting a lot of help from the community,” Robert Harris said. “We’re going to carry on until we can get back in here.”

In addition to monetary donations, the shelter is also in need of equipment to help carry out its mission. Among the items lost during Florence are:

  • Six twin mattresses
  • Two commercial refrigerators
  • One commercial freezer
  • One washing machine
  • One dryer

In addition to these items, the shelter also lost a range, a replacement for which has already been donated.

Financial donations can be addressed to Zion Shelter and Kitchen, P.O, Box 2324, Washington, NC 27889. Checks can be made out to Zion Shelter and Kitchen. Donations of canned food or equipment are welcome.