Samaritan’s Purse is one of those organizations that you wish you weren’t seeing, but you’re sure glad they’re there.
The organization, under its president Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, has been known over the past 30 years for showing up at disaster sites around the world, helping people clean up from tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes – and in ENC’s case, floods and hurricanes.
Samaritan’s Purse is currently set up in three area communities – New Bern, Jacksonville and Wilmington. They’re here for the long haul. “We have an open time schedule,” Todd Taylor, assistant manager of U.S. disaster relief, said. “We are scheduled through October 30, but we’ll probably be extending once or twice. We stay as long as we have work and volunteers.”
As to longevity, he noted, Samaritan’s Purse still has work sites set up and operating regarding Hurricane Harvey that struck in August, last year.
Bringing in several trailers that will help provide food, ice, showers and some sleeping arrangements for volunteers, along with a command center, Samaritan’s Purse arrives with a surprising small staff – the New Bern site has four paid workers including Taylor, a driver/mechanic and two assistants.
Equally, its volunteer staff is huge – “We’ve had 680 volunteers with us,” Taylor said. “We had 250 local volunteers, including two teams from East Carolina University here Sunday.”
Other volunteers are from any corner of the nation you care to pick. At one home at the Quarter Deck section in River Bend, volunteers were from Indiana, California and Fort Myers in Florida. Many are retired, but are working almost full time as volunteers, moving from disaster site to disaster site. Sites that some workers have left recently include Puerto Rico, Hurricane Harvey and the Carr Fires in Northern California.
“There’s something that draws them” Don Grondwalksi, a volunteer from Clayton said. “They don’t let age stop them. I see real Christians here, and I enjoy it.”
Dennis and Linda Glenn of Fort Myers said they first learned about Samaritan’s Purse while they were helping at a church their home church sponsors in Puerto Rico. “We saw them digging in and giving water, and I said, ‘If they ever need us, we have to go,” Linda said.
All over the US, folks are coming to help out,” Taylor said.
Some local volunteers hold administrative positions within the local office. Ed and Marian Stinnette, a retired New Bern couple, work as office coordinator and volunteer coordinators, as does Janice Buck of Vanceboro. The three sit in an office located in a truck trailer, working phones and computers to make sure the people who need help are helped, and that workers have a place to be. They put in 12-hour days, but they don’t mind. “We’re all here for the same reason,” Marian said. “To try to help people.”
Samaritan’s Purse is part of the Billy Graham Association and partners with the association in disaster relief. While Samaritan’s Purse volunteers are tearing out walls and cutting up trees, chaplains from trained in disaster counseling from the Association are also in the field, counseling and praying with victims.
These chaplains, Taylor said, show up at manmade disaster and terror sites as well – they have been to such scenes as the Sandy Hook school shootings and the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and also appear at many riot scenes to help bring calm.
In New Bern the Port City Community Church at 2840 Neuse Avenue is hosting Samaritan’s Purse, and many out-of-town volunteers are sleeping in the church building and eating there. The parking lot out front is a small city of trailers and awnings from Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham.
“They’ve been really important to this operation,” Taylor said.
So far, about 100 families have been helped by Samaritan’s Purse in Craven County. Taylor said he has a list of 875 more that is growing every day.
“We focus primarily on homeowners with little or no insurance,” he said. “The elderly, those that are not able to, or who don’t have the means to take care of themselves. And in an area like here in Craven County, we especially want to reach out to families who are deployed in the military,” he said.
Assessors go to sites to determine what they can and can’t do to assist – jobs too complex or dangerous for the volunteers are turned away for professionals to handle: “We don’t want to add a disaster to a disaster,” Taylor said.
The organization also won’t tear out houses of renters, though they will help them load trailers to move to other locations. Damages at rented homes are the responsibility of the landlords, Taylor said.
If you need help you can visit any of the Good Samaritan posts or in New Bern call 252-735-5802 or, to volunteer, 252-725-5616.
In Jacksonville Samaritan’s Purse is located at 501 Anne Street. To volunteer: 910-515-8639; to get help, 910-515-1688.
In Wilmington, 250 Vision Drive; to volunteer or to get help, 910-284-9713.