LUMBERTON — A lesson learned after Hurricane Matthew struck nearly two years ago has prompted Lumberton and Robeson County leaders to operate a single warehouse on Cedar Street in Lumberton as a collection site only for Hurricane Florence for relief supplies.
Supplies collected at the facility at 2300 N. Cedar St. in Lumberton will be sent to distribution sites in the hardest hit communities. Donations began arriving shortly after Florence hit the area, and the county and city are already pushing them out to needy residents.
Sharon Hunt, the recently retired assistant to Lumberton’s city manager, said Monday was a busy day, with trucks coming through all day delivering relief supplies. The supplies came in and were sent out quickly, 18 pallets worth that day.
“It literally came in, got repacked, and sent out,” Hunt said. “We have rolled out a lot of stuff today.”
Hunt estimated that almost 70 pallets of supplies went out to their distribution points in the county on Monday and Tuesday.
Separate warehouses were operated by the city and county in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, with each one serving as both a collection and distribution site. City and county officials say the use of one warehouse is less confusing.
“We learned from our mistakes,” said Christy Strickland, of the Robeson County Cooperative Extension Service. “We’re more organized, which means hopefully we can get supplies needed out in a more timely manner.”
Another change from Matthew is the type of supplies needed.
“We learned that the basic needs are going out first,” Strickland said. “Cleaning supplies are what is needed most.”
After Matthew, used clothes were among the most popular donated items. They are on the don’t-donate list this time, as well as shoes and perishable items. The warehouse is seeking items still in original packaging, such as food, water, toiletries, diapers, cleaning supplies and much more.
After sorting, pallets laden with supplies are sent to the various points of distribution. The PODs are located in fire departments scattered around the county: St. Paul’s Fire Department, 585 W. McLean St., St. Pauls; Britts Fire Department, 9495 N.C. 72 East, Lumberton; Deep Branch Fire Department, 3129 Deep Branch Road, Lumberton; East Howellsville Fire Department, 1000 Pridgen Road, Lumberton; Queheel Fire Department, 108 E. Rockingham Road, Maxton; Raft Swamp Fire Department, 809 W. N.C. 72, Lumberton; Red Springs Fire Department, 133 N. Main St., Red Springs; Northwoods Fire Department, 344 Sherwood Road, Lumberton; Orrum Fire Department, 102 S. Carolina St., Proctorville; and Rowland Fire Department, 401 N. Bond St., Rowland.
Lumberton Junior High School, 82 Marion Road in Lumberton; and United Way of Robeson Count, 514 Peterson Drive in Lumberton, also are serving as PODs. These two sites will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
Donations have come from as far away as Ohio and Texas.
“They went through a lot with Hurricane Harvey,” Strickland said of the Texas group. “They’re giving back. Folks are making donations. They’re happy to be giving.”
A University of North Carolina at Pembroke student brought in supplies from Raleigh on Tuesday.
“I’m a history student,” Fiona Allen said. “This is my country, in Pembroke. They’re struggling with the flooding. I fell in love with the land. I’m supporting the community that supports me.”
Also donating to the community effort was Gary Matthews, of Carrollton, Ohio. He lives more than 550 miles away from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Florence, but his love of Lumberton brought him back with food, bottled water, and baby supplies.
Matthews lived in Lumberton 30 years ago.
“I loved it here,” Matthews said. “… In the many communities where I’ve lived, this feels the most like home.”
Matthews brought friends and some of his employees to assist. Employees donated their Christmas bonus money to buy food, water and other necessities, and to pay for the trip to Lumberton.
“You can’t take it with you,” Matthews said. “I wanted to do something.”
Reach David Bradley at 910-416-5182 or [email protected]