LUMBERTON — From 15, the distribution and drop-off sites for disaster relief supplies in Robeson County are down to two.
These two repositories have been set up primarily as distribution sites for groups to get aid out to those who need it following Hurricane Matthew’s destruction. However, volunteers are needed to move the mountains of clothes, household items and food.
The two centers are at 1401 Starlite Drive, which is the hub of all clothing activity, and 2300 N. Cedar St., where all food,water and household items are being collected. The warehouses are accepting and distributing goods on Sundays from to 5 p.m., and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. all other days.
On Starlite Drive volunteers were nearly overwhelmed last week by the generosity of those bringing in clothes and an assortment of other items. A small team from Grace Church in Southern Pines, a few from Greenville, S.C., and several inmates of the Robeson County Detention Center toiled bringing in items from a relentless stream of cars and trucks.
Coordinating the effort Friday afternoon was Rudy Queen of Grace Church. He and several others from his church were planning on returning to the distribution center today or Monday.
“This is phenomenal, and we are going to get this stuff out to those people,” Queen said. “Even after Katrina, the real work starts after the immediate response is over.”
The real work in the Starlight Drive warehouse is sorting thousands of pieces of clothing.
“I was overwhelmed when I walked in here this morning, I didn’t know people had this much to give,” said volunteer Sara Robb, who had followed several members of her Secular Humanist group from upstate South Carolina. “Crises like this show you the good in people and what we can do when we work together.”
The warehouse on Starlite had around a dozen piles of loose clothes, boxes and bags standing 6 feet high and 10 yards around. Many of the clothes are sorted into size and gender, but more were waiting to be arranged.
“Whoa. Where do we start?” said one jail inmate walking into the giant storage room for the first time.
“I guess it’s like eating an elephant — you’ve just got to take that first bite and keep going,” said another.
The small number of volunteers worked tirelessly Friday, but hardly made a dent in the sorting as new donations took all of their time.
Volunteers at a warehouse at 2300 N. Cedar St. were busy Friday sorting canned goods from paper towels and loading up trucks of bottled water to send back with members of churches and other organizations.
“We’re getting it out as fast as it’s coming in,” said Sharon Hunt, assistant to Lumberton’s city manager.
Christina Hymbaugh arrived on Wednesday to volunteer. Although she lives in Nash County now, she retired as an eighth-grade math teacher at Red Springs Middle School last year.
“I heard that a lot of people were coming but not a lot of volunteers,” she said.
She’s seen some of her former students and “was very impressed” at high school and middle school students’ willingness to lend a hand.
Caprice Hunt, a Fairmont native, arrived Friday morning to help out. A recent graduate of East Carolina University, she and her sorority sisters in Sigma Omicron Epsilon filled up a truck with supplies to deliver to Robeson County.
“It’s my hometown, it’s where my heart is,” she said. ” … A lot of us are from this area.”
Hunt surveyed Matthew’s damage before her Friday shift at the warehouse.
“I was driving through the town and could see the water lines on the buildings. That hit me kind of hard,” she said.
But what has struck her most since coming back to Robeson is seeing strangers come together to help those in need.
“I think it’s kind of the Robeson County way,” she said. “It’s kind of a natural instinct to help out.”
Reach Mike Gellatly on Twitter @MikeGellatly. Sarah Willets contributed to this report.