LUMBERTON — Nearly seven weeks after Hurricane Matthew’s arrival in Robeson County, a very different kind of hurricane blew into the county, bringing delight, not devastation.
For six years, the Carolina Hurricanes have donated turkeys to Raleigh’s Helping Hands Mission ahead of Thanksgiving. This year, the NHL hockey franchise delivered here.
“This year with everything that’s happening with Hurricane Matthew we want to expand our turkey partnership to Lumberton and Robeson County,” said Jon Chase, director of community relations and promotions for the Raleigh-based team.
Chase was among a group who accompanied 225 frozen turkeys to the Robeson County Church and Community Center’s supply warehouse on Starlite Drive Tuesday. Also in that group was Stormy, the team’s mascot, who posed for pictures and doled out high fives throughout the afternoon.
“They were community-minded enough to reach out to Robeson County and the Robeson County Church and Community Center in a time of great need,” the nonprofit’s director, Darlene Jacobs, said.
The turkeys were collected during a November campaign in which the team donates one bird for every four tickets sold. Chase said the team learned about the Church and Community Center’s work through Dick Christy, athletic director for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The team and the university worked together on a different supply drive in September.
The team collected a total of 650 birds — giving 350 to Helping Hands and 75 to Lumberton’s Gibson Cancer Center.
At the Church and Community Center warehouse, which has been the hub for clothing donations, the turkeys were placed into boxes with canned vegetables, stuffing and other Thanksgiving foods. Some of the boxes went to Lumberton Junior High School, where students from flooded-out West Lumberton Elementary School are attending classes while their school is closed.
Felicia Hunt said the school system has a list of displaced students it will provide with food. Through the Church and Community Center, the families of displaced students will also get restaurant gift cards — a big financial help when some are living with two or three other families and many expenses related to the storm.
Janie Prevatte picked up a box of food while looking for clothes. Prevatte’s home off of West Fifth Street was destroyed by flooding.
“We lost everything in our house,” she said.
Tuesday was her first time visiting the warehouse. She and her sister, who lived next door, have found an apartment to live in, but most of her clothes were ruined by the flooding. She also picked up linens, towels and hygiene items.
“It means the world to us,” she said.
Although she won’t get to celebrate the holidays at her home, Prevatte will have a turkey — and a Christmas tree that was stored high above the floodwater.
“It’s a bad feeling having Christmas and Thanksgiving without the house, but the Lord’s going to take care of us,” she said.