MOREHEAD CITY — With 350 county residents on a waiting list for home repairs from damage during Hurricane Florence, a volunteer group from Costa Rica is in the county this week working with the Carteret Long Term Recovery Alliance.
“At least half of these cases (still on a waiting list) are displaced,” Disaster Recovery Director the Rev. Robbie Phillips said Monday of families. “The other half are living in their damaged homes, some in pretty bad shape. Others are just in various stages of recovery.”
Rev. Phillips said the CLTRA has closed 50 cases on homes that needed repairs, but there is still a long way to go to get residents back in their houses, and volunteers and donations are needed to help the families.
“As always, we are grateful for volunteers. It is particularly meaningful for folks to come all the way from Costa Rica. I love partnerships like this, we help them, they help us. We are working with several large groups to come next spring and summer. Housing them is a huge issue, because they’re too large to be housed in our host churches,” she said.
The crew from Costa Rica is headed by Carteret County native Wil Bailey, who moved to Costa Rica 16 years ago. Mr. Bailey, who was working with his crew on a home on Fisher Street Monday, said he fell in love with Costa Rica and the people many years ago as a teenager doing mission trips with First United Methodist Church in Morehead City.
“First United Methodist Church has been sending volunteer teams to work in Costa Rica for almost a decade,” Mr. Bailey said. “I was here last September (2018) when Florence happened. I was visiting family. I just felt like it was the right thing to do to help here because they’ve been helping us for years.”
Mr. Bailey said his crew arrived Saturday and will go back to Costa Rica Friday. However, Mr. Bailey, his wife and 5-year-old daughter plan to stay with his family through the holidays.
For homeowner Teresa Terrell, who watched as the team hung sheetrock in an upstairs room of her two-story house, having the crew working this week means she may be able to move back in her home full time by Christmas.
“Three-quarters of our roof was taken off and water came in every wall,” Ms. Terrell said. “All the hardwood floors upstairs were soaked, causing the ceilings downstairs to collapse. Stormwater runoff flowed from our neighbors’ property under our house, so we lost our AC unit. Then we discovered the floor joists were damaged, so everything had to be tore out.”
While the Terrells had insurance, she said the company denied them coverage for damages. They applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance, but were denied because they had homeowner’s insurance.
She heard about CLTRA and applied for help on the organization’s website.
“We had a Baptist men’s group demo and tear out our home, then long term recovery got involved helping us with the repairs,” Ms. Terrell said, adding that she is grateful for the help.
Frank Currier of Morehead City, a CLTRA volunteer who worked alongside the Costa Rican crew Monday, said local volunteers are greatly needed to complete the massive amount of work still facing county residents.
“Back at the beginning of this (following Florence), they said it would be at least five years to get Florence damage taken care of if we didn’t have any further hurricane damage,” Mr. Currier said.
CLTRA volunteer coordinator Paul Kraucunas said he appreciates the outside groups coming to the county to help, but he, too, said local groups are desperately needed.
“We need folks who can help with sheetrock, roofs, flooring, painting, electrical and plumbing. We especially welcome local contractors,” he said.
Rev. Phillips agreed.
“Our 2020 campaign will be engaging our local volunteer base. Having a large base of local volunteers is what our community needs to build resiliency,” she said. “We can’t keep depending on outside volunteers. We will be contacting religious organizations, civic organizations, businesses, schools, government, etc., and asking them to form a work team. If every organization in the county had a work team, that would be amazing. They can contact us and we will make sure we have meaningful work for them to do. This is how we spread out our dollars.”
The CLTRA is a nonprofit, community-based volunteer organization made up of churches, businesses, government agencies, civic groups and individuals working to repair homes damaged by hurricanes Florence and Dorian. The goal is to continue to grow the organization to respond to future county disasters, as well.
Those wanting to volunteer can go to the website carteretltra.org, call 252-723-4783 or come by the group’s office at 2101 Live Oak St. in Beaufort.
Those wanting to donate funds to purchase repair supplies can mail checks to Carteret Long Term Recovery Alliance, P.O. Box 543, Morehead City, NC 28557. They can also drop checks by the office or donate through the website.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.