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By Connie Leinbach
Carol Evans had a life-changing experience when United Methodist construction teams rebuilt her Swan Quarter home after Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
Evans was one of four in the United Methodist North Carolina Conference assessment team called UMCOR—United Methodist Committee on Relief–who was on the island Friday and Saturday to assess damage on Ocracoke from the recent Hurricane Matthew and to determine how they can help.
The group set up shop in the Community Center for islanders to share their repair needs.
After that, UMCOR will establish teams to return to the island to help cut trees, mold remediation, repair roofs and even rebuild homes from the ground up, said Tommy Gilbert, director of field operations.
Evans said her home was flooded in that major storm 13 years ago.
“I saw a sign posted about their help,” she said, and while her husband, Martin, was skeptical that it was for real, and called them about replacing mattresses.
After the group assessed her situation, she was astonished at their response.
“Tommy said, ‘We’ll build you a house,’” she said. “My husband still gets tears in his eyes about it.”
Two 80-year-old men were part of the rebuilding team, and they were all like worker bees.
“They didn’t stop,” she said. “They take their vacations to help others.”
The couple lived in an old farmhouse nearby while their house was rebuilt in about two and a half years.
“It changed my life,” she said about their new, 1,800-square foot home-built by this volunteer labor. “I’ve never seen such generosity in my life. You thank them and they turn around and say, ‘Thank you for letting me help.’”
A retired educator, Evans is now a case worker with the team.
UMCOR workers came to Hyde County mainland after Irene and are still there working, said Donna Brander, of Washington, who is another case manager with the group.
All of the team members, whether assessment or workers, are volunteers, said Don Evans of Apex in an interview between meeting islanders Friday afternoon.
UMCOR volunteers travel all over the United States and the world to help out where needed, he said.
They fill in the cracks of need. That is, if your insurance or FEMA does not cover everything a client needs, UMCOR can fill in.
UMCOR has a fund—North Carolina Storms Fund—devoted strictly to home repair. Everyone they help gets money this fund to start, depending on how much is in the entire fund, Brander said.
“We don’t know what the amount will be for this storm,” Brander said.
If more money is needed for the fund, they raise it, Gilbert said
They also ask everyone they help to donate whatever they can.
Donors wishing to help can donate to this storms fund and the entirety of the donation will go to it and not to any administrative costs, he said.
Evans has traveled all over the world volunteering for this cause. This kind of volunteer service yields an interesting psychological phenomenon, he said.
“It’s in the Bible,” he said about his service. “God tells you to do it, and it gets in your blood and you don’t want to stop.”
Brander, too, has been helping for several years.
“It lifts you up to help someone in pain,” she said.
Although the assessment team has departed, if more islanders feel they need assistance, they are welcome to call the UMCOR main number at 888-440-9167, Gilbert said.
In fact, anyone can call to request home repair assistance at any time, not just storm related.