LUMBERTON — Many prayers were offered during the dedication of the North Carolina Baptist Men’s Rebuild Center on Wednesday, a facility that will serve as a home to volunteers as the recovery from Hurricane Matthew extends into the years.
The 12,000-square-foot facility, which is on Avant Drive in Lumberton, can sleep and feed 100 volunteers inside and 20 more in a trailer outside. It is a testament to the group’s multi-year commitment to help rebuild Lumberton, Robeson County and Eastern North Carolina from the Oct. 8 hurricane and the flooding that followed.
Joann Edwards, who lives in the hard-hit Alamac Road area, was among those at the dedication.
“I lost two homes, two cars, a truck and a camper,” she said. “It’s like starting over.”
Work by the Baptist Men is about 45 days away from putting Edwards back in her home, said Lumberton site coordinator Billy Layton, who was showing her through the facility.
“This shows there are good people in the world,” Edwards said. “It’s unbelievable. They are the answer to my prayer.”
The Baptist Men, based at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Lumberton, responded quickly to Hurricane Matthew and in three waves. First, they fed the displaced; then, mucked out homes; and now they are on the path to rebuild 1,000 homes from five sites in Eastern North Carolina.
“The rebuilding stage is what this building is about,” said Richard Brunson, executive director of Baptist Men/Baptist on Mission. “We have lots of people to thank for this day, especially Mayor (Bruce) Davis.”
The Lumberton mayor provided all the resources he and his administration could muster to help the city — from borrowing massive water pumps and warehouse space to finding a permanent home for the Baptist Men.
“This has been a great project, an awesome commitment that the Baptist Men have made,” Davis said. “Without groups like them, we could not achieve the goal of putting our community back together.”
In turn, Davis thanked Jim Driscoll and his family, who owned the facility that was purchased by the Baptist Men. He also noted major assistance from BB&T, which donated space for emergency programs; Caterpillar equipment company, which contributed two backhoes to replace equipment ruined by floodwaters; and Mike Townsend, who loaned a shopping center on Fayetteville Road as an emergency distribution center.
Lumberton’s mayor singled out Robeson County government for its help providing 500,000 gallons of water daily after Lumberton’s water plant was flooded and providing space for an emergency operations center.
The Rebuild Center, off Starlite Drive on Lumberton’s west side, started life as T.R. Driscoll sheet metal shop and served as a warehouse for several years after that. Jim and his wife, Judy, were at the dedication and toured the facility afterward.
The remodeled space is a catacomb of large and small rooms for sleeping, eating, cooking, offices and a large tool storage area. Paint and flooring are all that remain to be completed before it becomes fully operational.
About 50 city and county officials attended the dedication with Baptist officials. Representing Baptist Men were Brunson, Layton, Gaylon Moss, disaster relief coordinator; Robert Simons, mission president; John Butler, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina; and Alan Taylor, director of missions for the Robeson County Baptist Association.
“The Baptist Men are the go-to volunteer agency in North Carolina,” Davis said.