As the flood waters recede from Eastern North Carolina, the need for immediate relief will also recede. Those outside the region, who have been generous supplying food, water, clothes, blankets, and other material assistance, will return to their daily routines. Those affected, however, will first have to repair and rebuild before they can recover and rebuild their daily lives.The storm and its aftermath killed 26 people and caused $1.5 billion in damage to 100,000 homes, farms and other buildings. In addition to the physical costs, families and businesses have lost income that could have been used to pay for repairs. While state and federal government agencies, the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and others, have provided money and resources, their efforts are inadequate and temporary. Fortunately, Eastern North Carolina has tremendous local resources in its people and communities that are committed to being good neighbors.Unfortunately, some of these organizations have to rebuild and recover themselves before they can help others. One of those is Tri-County Industries (TCI), which helps disabled and disadvantaged people identify their skills, learn new skills, and apply them in work for local employers. Before the flood, TCI’s light manufacturing facility employed 66 developmentally disabled people who did assembly work for clients around Rocky Mount. Some of them had worked at TCI for 35 years. As the waters began to rise, Brenda Cogdell and her husband rushed to get computers and important files out of harm’s way. They have since received estimates totaling more than $600,000 to repair and replace damage to the building, HVAC system, manufacturing equipment, and furniture. The owner of a long-vacant building two doors down from the original location made space available at no cost, so participants were able to return October 31. Cogdell said that it will take a couple more weeks before they can start assembly work again.Across town, is Word Tabernacle Church’s Impact Center, where Executive Director Trishonda Roberson said, “Our desire is to empower individuals and raise up leaders within communities,” which means helping people meet their own needs instead of simply providing them things. When floods from Hurricane Matthew swept through Nash and Edgecombe counties, church members jumped into action. They began to provide families with clothing, meals, access to computers, child care, rest, and spiritual support. The church has worked with a number of companies and other community groups to coordinate relief efforts. Center staff and volunteers will continue providing hurricane assistance even while they also shift their attention to long-term recovery and restoration for individuals and the community.These are just two of the many churches, nonprofits, and ad hoc organizations that are providing hope. These groups provide a sense of place as they offer neighbors the ability to act, to connect, and to help. By diffusing responsibility from government into the community, they help the community recover faster with a stronger identity and cohesion precisely because it is less dependent on any one source of assistance.Joe Coletti is co-founder and CEO of Better Yes Network.
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