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Volunteers, donations give Ocracoke a Thanksgiving event; iconic building torn down

First Flight High School staff serves barbecue and chicken lunches at the Community Center. Photo by Richard Taylor

By Richard Taylor

Several students and staff from First Flight High School in Kill Devil Hills traveled here two days before Thanksgiving, to serve a pre-holiday meal to islanders, as others prepared for the Ocracoke Community Thanksgiving Day celebration.

“Our basketball teams normally do Thanksgiving meals for our community, but we realized Ocracoke needed us a little more this year,” said First Flight Assistant Principal Lela Ingram after helping distribute some 350 meals Wednesday.  “So, we got the whole community involved. We raised money and had food and all sorts of things donated from our community partners.” She said First Flight raised over $3,300 for Ocracoke.

Ingram said Dolphin School Athletic Director Adam Burleson arranged a house for the First Flighters to stay in Tuesday night after arriving on the last ferry from Hatteras.

High Cotton BBQ from Kitty Hawk also came here late Tuesday to prepare barbecue and chicken dishes. “They partnered with our culinary students to make the mac and cheese and coleslaw sides,” Ingram said.

“Our students made a lot of the food. Everyone on Ocracoke has been so kind and appreciative and happy to have our support,” she added.

First Flight High School Assistant Principal Lela Ingram, left, and Instructional Technology Facilitator Crissie Weeks bag meals for distribution Wednesday afternoon in the Community Center. Photo by Richard Taylor

First Flight Athletic Director and Basketball Coach Chad Williams stayed busy serving up barbecue and chicken plates from behind the Community Center counter Wednesday. He was especially thankful for efforts made by High Cotton head cook Jared Strawcutter to prepare the barbecue and work with First Flight students to prepare side dishes.

Williams also invited islanders to come “up the beach” to see the Dolphins play the Hatteras Hurricanes in First Flight’s Second Annual Good Guys vs. Cancer Showcase, Dec. 13 and 14 in Kill Devil Hills.

Former Dolphins head basketball coach, David Allewalt, and his Washington PamPack team will also be in the charity event. Exact schedules are pending.

Ocracoke will not hold its normal Holiday Invitational Basketball Tournament this year due to its gym playing surface being severely damaged by Hurricane Dorian Sept. 6. Consequently, all 2019-2020 Dolphin varsity, girls and JV games will be played away.

As First Flight was serving lunch, another spectacle drew onlookers along Irvin Garrish Highway.

Spectators watched as Darren Burrus of Cape Dredging in Buxton knocked down the Ocracoke Oyster Company, which was housed in the venerable, original Captain Ben’s, at the corner of Old Beach Road with his excavator. It took Burrus just over an hour to reduce the iconic building to a large pile of rubble. The business will reopen next spring in the former location of the Ocracoke Bar & Grille.

Meanwhile volunteers gathered at the Berkeley Barn Wednesday afternoon to prepare for the Ocracoke Community Thanksgiving feast Thursday. Tables and chairs were set up as volunteers from Liberty Christian Fellowship in Colington and John’s Drive Inn in Kitty Hawk chopped carrots, collards and celery and prepared turkeys for roasting.

Liberty partnered with Ocracoke Disaster Relief to host the Thanksgiving meal.

“What makes this event so cool is that we’ve had a compilation of many groups coming together,” said Liberty Disaster Relief Coordinator Katie Pendry. “We’ve had volunteers from Operation Blessing in Virginia Beach and from all over the beach pitch in to help out Ocracoke Disaster Relief and the local residents.”

Gordon Knox of Disaster Relief USA prepares to roast donated turkeys. Photo by Richard Taylor

Volunteers from the International Pentecostal Holiness Disaster Relief USA (DRUSA) in Ahoskie roasted 14 donated turkeys on an outside cooker trailer Wednesday afternoon. The group also brought in a large kitchen trailer from Falcon, Cumberland County, to aide in food preparation.

Gordon Knox, DRUSA director for the Pentecostal Holiness North Carolina Conference, brought four volunteers to the island.

“We came down here to cook for those who are unable to put it together for themselves,” Knox said. “With the mobile kitchen we have, we can do it all in one place.  We’re somewhere every year. We’ve been to Texas, to Florida, all around. I started out with Katrina back in 2005.” For the volunteers who helped on Ocracoke on Thanksgiving, the holiday is about giving.

“I wish I could do more,” said Michelle Harrell of Ahoskie, one of the DRUSA volunteers with Knox, as she and Tammy Kittrell, Knox’s daughter, took a break from helping serve about 400 islanders. “I always wanted to do this.”

Alicia Peel of Ocracoke Disaster Relief helps the feast in the Berkley Barn go smoothly. Photo: C. Leinbach

Alicia Peel of Ocracoke Disaster Relief, who organized all of the meals, said getting the mobile kitchen to the island was the biggest challenge.

“We had backup plan after backup plan after backup plan,” she said. “Disaster Relief USA was actually Plan C, but I’m so glad they’re here, after our first plan fell through and the back-up Red Cross vehicle had mechanical issues.”

The Red Cross put her in contact with DRUSA, she said.

“They are just a huge element in making this Thanksgiving meal go relatively smoothly,” Peel said. “We also had a lot of monetary donations come in.”

Peel said the turkeys were donated by The Black Pelican Oceanfront Restaurant in Kitty Hawk and by Sugar Creek Seafood Restaurant in Nags Head. John’s Drive-In of Kitty Hawk also provided food and volunteer workers to aide in food preparation. Ocean Atlantic donated the plates and glassware.

Karen Lovejoy and Sundae Horn coordinated decorating the Berkley Barn and the potluck side dishes.

John Tice, owner of John’s Drive-in, was a major food sponsor and also brought 15 staff and friends and more than 500 oysters for eating raw or roasted.

“I’m all about cooking for other people,” he said about helping Ocracoke on Thanksgiving Day.

Despite the hurricane devastation Sept. 6, Ocracoke still has much to be thankful for this year. As the homemade sign in front of the Down Point Decoy Shop on Irvin Garrish Highway reads, “Ocracoke to Dorian. We got this.”

Connie Leinbach contributed to this story.

The Disaster Relief USA Mobile Food Truck. Photo: C. Leinbach

John Tice roasts 500 donated oysters. Photo: C. Leinbach

Katie Pendry of Liberty Christian Fellowship in Colington and Amanda Tice of John’s Drive Inn in Kitty Hawk prepare donated turkeys for roasting by Disaster Relief USA of Ahoskie. Photo by Richard Taylor

Darren Burrus of Cape Dredging in Buxton tears down the former Ocracoke Oyster Company restaurant Wednesday. Photo by Richard Taylor

The iconic ‘Captain Ben’s,’ which most recently house the Ocracoke Oyster Company, is demolished. Photo: C. Leinbach

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