Hurricane Matthew pummeled multiple BCH locations on Saturday, October 8 causing extensive damage and the evacuation of many of the boys, girls and families served.
“We do not yet know the extent of the damage sustained by our affected homes, but we are immensely grateful that all children and staff are safe,” says BCH president Michael C. Blackwell.
Seven locations were impacted by the hurricane. Three Family Care homes for single mothers and their children – Oak Ranch in Sanford, Britton Ministries in Ahoskie, and Smith Home in Marston – all experienced power outages. Because of conditions in Ahoskie, the families stayed two nights in a hotel before returning.
Children at BCH’s two residential wilderness camps in Moore County, Cameron Boys Camp and Camp Duncan for Girls, were moved indoors from the campsites where they live. The storm knocked out power to the administrative buildings and toppled trees. The campers were able to return to the campsites once it was determined to be safe.
Residents of Odum Home in Pembroke relocated to a local high school gymnasium as conditions worsened on Saturday. The campus lost power as the wind-driven rain felled trees and caused waters to rise to unsafe levels. At one point, a vacant van used to transport the children was submerged
“Staying at the high school was difficult, but through it all our kids saw the devastation and wanted to help others who were in need,” says Kathy Locklear, Odum Home Campus Manager.
In addition to the van, Locklear says that water came into the maintenance building and damaged the ceiling at Carter Hall where the large cam- pus cooler and walk-in freezer are located.
“We lost all the food there as well as food in our cottage refrigerators and freezers,” Locklear says.
Eventually, the children and staff were able to return to Odum Home even though they were without power the majority of the following week.
The hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew is Kennedy Home in Kinston, BCH’s second-largest campus. The storm resulted in approximately one dozen fallen trees, campus-wide power outage, and high levels of water that poured into several buildings. By Sunday morning on Oct. 9, the decision was made to evacuate the children, mothers and families in the Family Care cottages, and staff members on campus. They packed up necessities and traveled to Mills Home in Thomasville, BCH’s largest campus, where hey are living until they can return to Kinston.
“Mills Home’s employees have been so welcoming and such great encouragers,” says Brian Baltzell, Kennedy Home Director. “Our Kennedy Home staff have been heroic. No one is complaining. The mothers have been very positive and were the first to volunteer to help with chores.”
With the arrival of Kennedy Home, the population at Mills Home essentially doubled. Conditions were crowded with some residents and staff sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
In the midst of everything, Kennedy Home residents like 18-year- old Sherman have been resilient. “I’m just thankful we have a dry place at Mills Home. When we left Kennedy, trees and branches were down all over. There was water everywhere.”
Damage at Kennedy Home from Hurricane Matthew’s initial impact is substantial, but the campus was able to avoid further loss after the Neuse River rose and crested on Friday, Oct. 14.
“All the reports we heard throughout the week pointed towards further damage due to the rising river level,” Blackwell explains. “Thankfully, no new water came onto the grounds. Without a doubt, God answered our prayers.”
On Sunday, Oct. 16, a portion of the Kennedy Home campus was able to reopen and the residents and staff were able to safely return.
This is not the first time Kennedy Home has faced such conditions. In 1999, the Neuse River peaked at a record-setting 27.7 feet due to the impact of Hurricane Floyd. As a result, the campus had to deal with flooding. This time, the focus is on the damage initially sustained.
“We are in the process of assessing the losses,” Blackwell says. “Repairs and restoration costs are going to run high.”
Any damages sustained at the other locations affected are also to be determined.
“We must repair and restore these homes while staying focused on our residents,” Blackwell continues. “These boys and girls are at BCH because of the trauma that has impacted their lives and these circumstances will certainly add to that.”
BCH will need volunteer teams in the coming days to assist with clean-up and repairs. Blackwell says financial donations to BCH’s hurricane relief
fund are especially important.
“We need everyone to give to our relief efforts,” he urges. “The only way we can move forward in the aftermath of these losses is for our friends and community to rally around our residents and staff. We ask everyone to be in prayer and to give as God leads.”
You can help immediately by giving to BCH's Hurricane Relief Fund. Visit www.bchfamily.org/givenow and choose "Hurricane Relief" to make a donation.