LUMBERTON — Vehicles stretched down Roberts Avenue on Tuesday as victims of Hurricane Florence finally got a hot meal.
“Last time, this line stretched all the way to I-95,” said Robert Mabry, a supervisor for the N.C. Baptist on a Mission, which put on the party.
The N.C. Baptist on a Mission feeding unit set up headquarters for the second time in two years at Hyde Park Baptist Church. The first time was in 2016, following Hurricane Matthew. More than 100 volunteers were on site early Tuesday to assist with the lunch portion, during which more than 3,500 plates were served. Dinner would be served later in the day.
The lunch meal consisted of chicken sandwiches with green beans and apple sauce with a water. Hot dogs were also served. Each vehicle could take a maximum of 10 plates.
“For some, it’s been five days without power,” Mabry said as he watched the line growing longer. “This is their first hot meal.”
Vehicles lined up in two lanes once they entered the church parking lot. Offered were meals provided by the American Red Cross through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Accompanying their hot meals were encouraging words and the option of a prayer.
“People are hurting,” said the church’s lead pastor Jeff Blackburn. “We want them to know about Jesus Christ and the love we have for them and the way we want to do that is by serving their needs.”
Blackburn said that he’s honored the church is being used again for a good cause — but the reason makes it bittersweet.
“When they offered to come back here, I said ‘absolutely,’” Blackburn said. “Of course it was hard for everyone going through this a second time but for us to be able to serve our community again, there was no question we were going to do it.”
“I can’t imagine it,” Mabry said of the same area being hit twice in three years by a devastating hurricane. “I have two bedrooms at home that nobody sleeps in and there’s people down here going their second time losing everything they‘ve got.”
Mabry said Hurricane Matthew provided a playbook, and this time it should be easier addressing the local needs.
“Last time we ran out water. This time we have a tanker truck full,” Mabry said. “When that runs out, we go to the nearest municipality with safe water. That could be two hours away in Raleigh.”
The mission has the capacity to provide 20,000 meals a day. The meals are also distributed at the five shelters in the county and other churches around the county.
Other churches serving as food locations are: First Baptist Church, 416 S. Main St., Fairmont; Barnesville Baptist Church, 1155 Barnesville Church Road, Orrum; Mt. Elim Baptist Church, 645 N. Creek Road, Orrum; Rowland First Baptist Church, 401 W. Main, St., Rowland; Ten Mile Baptist Church, 5174 Barker Ten Mile Road, Lumberton; Great Marsh Baptist Church, 270 E. Great Marsh Road, St. Pauls; and the Burnt Swamp Association.
The meals will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays.
The churches are still accepting volunteers at the sites. Volunteers should be at the church at 10 a.m. to help with lunch and 3 p.m. to help with dinner. They will be asked to sign a release form.
The team will also be starting a recovery sign-up to provide temporary tarp roofs.
The church is located at 301 N. Roberts Ave. in Lumberton.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached by email at [email protected] or 910-309-3469.