LUMBERTON — On Saturday afternoon, a transfer truck featuring an oversized University of North Carolina football player barrelled its way through downtown Lumberton and parked in front of the Chestnut Street United Methodist Church.
With it were more than 20 tons of emergency relief supplies for a county trying to recovery from Hurricane Florence. It was courtesy of the UNC football program, which cashed in on the karma with its first win of the season the same day.
“That’s been a blessing, for sure,” said Amby Taylor, the mission chair at the church. “It’s nice to be able to have feelers out there and to let them know we have what they need, and if we don’t have what they need, hopefully we can steer them in the right direction as to where they might need to go.”
In 2016, when Hurricane Matthew hit the city, the church swiftly took action and supplied families with food, water and other necessities.
Taylor believes Florence will surpass Matthew for pain to people and damage to property. New areas of flooding occurred during Florence, but once against West Lumberton, South Lumberton and Mayfair in North Lumberton were hardest hit.
“Florence poured more water … I didn’t think I could see so much water,” she said.
The Lumber River set a record after Florence that had been set during Matthew, above 25 feet, double the flood stage.
Taylor said she’s thankful for the generosity as they try to provide for others going through hardship.
The church has UNC football coach Larry Fedora to thank, as he drummed up the idea to help Lumberton and other suffering communities after the storm. According to the school’s website, Fedora connected with the school’s athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, to formulate a plan to use the truck for multiple trips to hard-hit areas.
Wendy Wood serves as the operation supervisor at Marrin’s Moving, the company that owns the 53-foot trailer. Wood says it took about two days to fill the truck with emergency supplies such as cases of water, non-perishable food and toiletries.
UNC set up a collection site on campus for students to contribute, and all 85 UNC football players donated $15 they receive for a meal, raising $1,275 for the purchase of supplies.
“It’s kind of a grassroots effort of people thinking, ‘What can I do to help?’” Cunningham told the News & Observer. “I’m really proud of those guys for thinking that way.”
She and David Shinn, the warehouse supervisor, gladly accepted the challenging drive.
“It’s from our hearts,” Wood said.
“If they give us another chance and ask us to do it again, we will,” Shinn said.
Chestnut United Methodist will not be a distribution center, however, unlike in the past. Taylor said doing so was too labor intensive and some people were abusing the opportunity by stacking up donations by going to multiple distribution sites. Instead, the church will put the supplies in a warehouse and allow other churches and groups to pick them up and distribute them to the needy.
Donnell Coley can be reached at 910-416-5165 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Sportsinmyveins.