Just days after learning Hurricane Florence would take a turn away from the Peninsula, local churches started planning to gather supplies that will help the people who were not spared from the rain and floods that came with the storm.
Willard Maxwell, pastor at New Beech Grove Baptist Church, said the people of the Peninsula were blessed to dodge the storm and many would be prepared to help people devastated by the hurricane since they were already prepared for a major impact.
Maxwell is working with the Tidewater Peninsula Baptist Association, Colossian Baptist Church and Ebenezer Baptist Church to send a tractor trailer loaded up with supplies to coastal North Carolina. If needed, they may send more trucks.
The groups plan to send supplies to a pair of churches near Wilmington once flooding has receded and it’s safe to drive down. The churches there have the local knowledge to distribute the goods to people in need, Maxwell said.
To help this relief effort, Newport News is providing $5,000 from an emergency fund to assist the churches. Mayor McKinley Price said he asked other members of City Council if they would like to help fund this relief effort, and the council approved it.
Price said the region dodged a bullet when the hurricane turned away, but preparing for the worst makes the city more ready for the next time a major storm approaches.
Maxwell said there is an energy of generosity in Newport News that he’s seen when the churches have partnered for past relief efforts.
Two years ago, Maxwell organized an effort to send trucks loaded with bottled water up to Flint, Mich. That effort yielded four fully-loaded hauls up to the city, which has lived through a water crisis for years. They collected so much water that the first truck they sent was too heavy — inspectors let the truck go through because it was heading to Flint, according to Maxwell.
The faith groups have also organized relief efforts to Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Maxwell encouraged people who had storm supplies they did not use and no longer need to donate them to the Wilmington relief effort. Generally, church leaders in North Carolina told Maxwell they’ll need everything — Maxwell narrowed that down to bottled water, canned goods, toiletries, cleaning supplies and diapers.
As people recover, Maxwell said he’ll be able to put together a more specific list of items.
People can bring items to New Beech Grove Baptist Church at 361 Beechmont Drive between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The churches plan to send the truck down to Wilmington toward the end of September.
Reyes can be reached by phone at 757-247-4692. Follow him on Twitter at @jdauzreyes.