SUN JOURNAL May 26, 2012:
1,100 volunteers bring Hope….
Shauna Engeldinger is a church administrative assistant in Ohio. Tim Dow works in sales in New Hampshire. Adam Baumgardner is a civilian aircraft mechanic at Cherry Point air station. Karen Shutt, also from New Hampshire, has nine grandchildren, is retired and baby-sits a lot.
They have a common thread, being among 1,100 volunteers from around the country who fanned out around Pamlico County repairing and in some cases, nearly rebuilding Hurricane Irene storm-damaged homes.
Eight Days of Hope, a Mississippi faith-based disaster recovery nonprofit that began its mission after Hurricane Katrina, expects the number of volunteers from more than 40 states to swell to 1,600 during its eight day stay in Pamlico.
Throughout the county Saturday, work sites were easy to spot, with multiple vehicles, stacks of building supplies, large Dumpsters and crowds of volunteers sporting their trademark blue T-shirts.
The volunteers are of all denominations, genders and ages. Pamlico is Eight Days of Hope’s ninth relief mission. Many of the volunteers have been on other projects, ranging from hurricanes in the Gulf to floods in the Midwest as well as the mountains of Tennessee.
Asked why they sacrifice their time and labor for strangers far from home and the answers are consistent. It reflects their faith
Engeldinger is no stranger to relief work, having traveled to Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
She rarely picks up a hammer, but donned in work clothes, gloves and a protective mask, she looked like a seasoned professional beating and tearing out old sheetrock from the home of 102-year-old Mary Monroe in Stonewall.
“You have to have a heart for people and what to do — God’s work — and be selfless,” she said.
John Thompson, who was also with the Ohio church group, said the goal was to “gut the house, tear all the drywall out, kill the mold and ready the walls for the painters.”
Monroe, who has lived in the small house for 60 years, is staying at an assisted living facility while the workers rework her home, according to Marilyn Jones, her caregiver.
“This (place) is all that she has known,” she said of Monroe. “I don’t know if it was because she is 102, but FEMA didn’t do anything. This is a real blessing.”
Neal Miller, retired from the furniture supply business in Mississippi, drives a supply truck bringing building materials from the warehouse to the volunteer workers. It is his fifth trip with Eight Days.
He and his wife are no strangers to North Carolina. He made multiple trips to furniture shows in High Point for 42 years and his wife has sisters in Oriental and Newport. They also have a son who was once stationed at Cherry Point air station.
“This was like going back home,” he said. “We are supposed to be blessing the people we help, but we get a bigger blessing than they do. We do things the way you are supposed to do it. And, there is a lot of energy from this group (volunteers).”
Baumgardner, who lives in New Bern, is a newcomer to Eight Days, coming with Donald Germann and his 12-year-old son, Darrin Germann. Dad Germann, who works for the state Department of Transportation, has been on previous Eight Day projects, including Hurricane Katrina and to Tennessee for flood relief.
“It’s our love of the Lord and our love of people,” he said. “We share the gospel, not just through words and preaching to people.”
Baumgardner agreed, adding, “We’re showing our faith.”
Steve Tybor, president of Eight Days, said Pamlico County looks to become the group’s largest rebuilding project ever.
“We have no overhead. We’re an all-volunteer grassroots organizations,” he said. “We’ll buy materials locally. We have a warehouse set up. We set up, in essence, a small business for eight days. We deliver materials to the job sites and if they run short, they call and we deliver more.”
Eight Days’ fundraising goal for the Pamlico project is $250,000, with donations still needed and being accepted.
“We’re a faith-based organization and when people hear about the grassroots effort with no overhead, they are willing to donate,” he said.
Dawn Baldwin Gibson, chairman of the Pamlico County Disaster Recovery Coalition, praised the work of her group, from the fundraising committee to case workers who have visited and assessed the needs of flood victims. The coalition has a 24-member board.
“We can’t say enough for Eastern North Carolina for what they have done,” she said of the $70,000 in donations raised. “It has really been a grassroots effort.”
The funds raised included about $20,000 that came in a response to a recent letter sent to every home and property owner in the county.
“We’re hoping that we get a large number of people helped,” said Joy Carawan, the finance officer and a case worker for the Pamlico County Disaster Relief Coalition. “The long-term recovery is still going to be here after Eight Days of Hope leaves, but I would like to see the majority of it done. We are almost nine months out from the storm and still working on people’s homes.”