East Carolina Undaunted Provides Hurricane Support Through Goods Drive

Representatives from Hyde County hauled plastic totes, shovels, rakes and bottles of Gatorade from East Carolina University’s Willis Building back to Ocracoke Island after receiving donations from East Carolina Undaunted’s Hurricane Dorian Goods Drive.

While canned food and bottled water are most requested after a natural disaster, the residents of Ocracoke Island found themselves in a unique situation. They had food and clean water, but needed cleaning supplies, yard tools and, maybe the most important resource of all, caffeine.

Robin Kneisley, left, assists Tommy Hutcherson while loading drinks into a cart to take back to Ocracoke Island residents affected by Hurricane Dorian. (Photos by Matt Smith)

The island’s unique location also made traveling to Ocracoke to volunteer difficult, as ferry services became limited to permanent residents, nonresident homeowners and authorized emergency personnel.

Despite these challenges, Hyde County Manager and ECU alumnus Kris Noble said she’s been overwhelmed by the support received from her fellow Pirates.

“I can’t fully express my level of gratitude,” Noble said. “ECU has such a special place in my heart and to come here and see the students, faculty and staff who have such a great love for the island is amazing. The work they’ve done and the supplies they’ve brought us are perfect.”

The drive was bolstered by large donations from ECU’s Office of Campus Safety and Auxiliary Services, the ECU tennis team, and the EC Scholars program. The EC Scholars freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes held a competition to see which class could donate the most supplies. In a squeaker that included multiple drop-off trips, the sophomore class won, helping the university pack two vans full of supplies.

Noble said that as the island moves from immediate hurricane relief to long-term recovery, financial donations will be vital to provide the equipment needed to rebuild homes and businesses.

“A majority of the homes on the island have been torn out,” Noble said. “The insides of a lot of these homes are sitting in their yards. As hard as it’s been to watch, we have to begin the rebuild phase. It’s critical for us to help people get the resources they need to rebuild.

“We have set up a fund through the Outer Banks Community Foundation where people can donate directly to the Ocracoke Disaster Recovery fund. These monies will be used directly to help residents recover.”

Noble said that Hyde County leadership is still assessing the total amount of damage to the island. It’s estimated that Hurricane Dorian caused more than $500 million in damages to the United States. Three fatalities were caused by the storm in North Carolina alone.

The island is accepting in-person volunteers to help with recovery efforts, but Noble advises potential volunteers to go through the proper channels if they wish to donate their time.

“You still cannot come to the island without prior authorization, but you can connect to one of four volunteer organizations working on the island,” she said.

After Hurricane Florence last year, ECU established East Carolina Undaunted, a hurricane recovery response team that pulled together resources from across the university. Volunteers recorded thousands of hours of recovery support, collecting more than 80,000 pounds of nonperishable foods and goods and $370,131 in financial and in-kind donations.

Sharon Paynter, assistant vice chancellor for economic and community engagement, said ECU remains committed to helping the region recover after natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian.

“When we began East Carolina Undaunted last year, we knew that we weren’t just servicing one natural disaster,” Paynter said. “We’re here to help eastern North Carolina through whatever storm comes our way. We couldn’t provide that help without the support of all of our Pirates. We owe a debt of thanks to the students, faculty and staff that allowed us to assist Ocracoke in their time of need as they move into the recovery stage.”

Noble said that those interested in volunteering should visit the Ocracoke Disaster Relief Facebook page for more information, or email ocracokedisasterrelief@gmail.com and ask for volunteer instructions. The Hyde County recovery team will direct volunteers to one of four organizations on the island, including Samaritan’s Purse, United Methodists Recovery, Baptists on Mission, and Christian Aide Ministries.

Donations can be made to the Outer Banks Community Foundation online at https://www.obcf.org/.

EC Scholar Hannah Bolick, from left, Ocracoke Variety Store owner Tommy Hutcherson, Hyde County Manager Kris Noble, and East Carolina Undaunted team members Sharon Paynter, Elizabeth Hodge, Robin Kneisley, Keith Wheeler, and Cassie Keel celebrate Ocracoke Island receiving two vans full of goods from ECU’s Hurricane Dorian Goods Drive. Volunteers donated cleaning supplies, yard tools, plastic totes, humidifiers and shop vacs to help in the recovery effort.