The cost of damages incurred from Hurricane Matthew are mounting as conditions at Baptist Children’s Homes’ (BCH) Eastern North Carolina locations, particularly Kennedy Home in Kinston, continue to be assessed.
The storm that devastated much of the eastern part of the state on October 8 impacted seven BCH locations. Wind-driven rains caused trees to fall, water damage in several buildings, and loss of power. Many of the children and staff members were forced to temporarily evacuate until it was safe for them to return.
Kennedy Home, BCH’s second-largest campus, was hit the hardest with residents and staff relocating to Mills Home in Thomasville for a week. Early estimates show at least $1.5 million in damages on the campus.
“It’s heartbreaking to see Kennedy Home staggering in the aftermath of this devastating storm.” BCH president/CEO Michael C. Blackwell says. “The cost to restore this great place is going to be high. I ask everyone to be in prayer for Kennedy Home and to give how God leads.”
A total of 32 trees have fallen and another 30 toppled around the perimeter of the campus. A total of 18 out of 24 buildings suffered some level of damage including staff housing, the gymnasium, the food storage building, and five residential cottages.
In some buildings, new walls will need to be installed and flooring replaced. The floor at the gymnasium, one of the children’s favorite spots, was completely ruined.
Church groups and disaster relief teams have helped with initial repairs and clean up.
“We’re starting to rebuild,” says Kennedy Home director Brian Baltzell. “We give thanks to God for each person who has come and for the ministry being offered.”
Volunteers of all ages have traveled from across and outside the state to assist at the campus. The first group that arrived was from Spilman Memorial Baptist Church in Kinston, the home church of Kennedy Home alumna Dorris Powers.
“It was with a deep sadness to come out there after the storm,” Powers says. “Trees were down everywhere. We really saw the extent of the damage when we went inside the food locker.”
The food locker, the central hub for Kennedy Home’s food storage, sustained considerable water damage. Both the walk-in freezer and cooler were severly damaged and may not be salvageable. The group spent the afternoon cleaning out spoiled food. All perishable food supplies in the locker and the cottages were lost.
“We saw people in various places on campus working hard and doing what needed to be done,” Powers continues. “God is good in all the ways He provides.”
Volunteer teams are tackling projects. Work ranges from cutting up fallen trees to hanging drywall in the affected buildings.
“We had about 200 people here last weekend helping with trees, drywall and sorting donations,” says Baltzell.
Those donations, both physical and monetary, are coming from individuals as well as community groups hosting donation drives. The drives have collected truckloads of clothing, non perishable food, paper products, and cleaning supplies.
“The community response has been overwhelming to behold,” Blackwell says. “Friends across the state are ensuring that our residents and staff know beyond any doubt that they are loved.”
The coming days are crucial as clean up progresses and damages continue to be evaluated. Blackwell emphasizes that strong, continuing church and community support is essential to the restoration of Kennedy Home.
“Giving is the only way to defray these massive expenses while still providing for the needs of the children and families we serve daily,” he says. “As always, we are confident that God will provide.”
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.