In the past six months, I have heard dozens of people tell me they were planning something – a special home project, a long-awaited trip, a certain work goal – but Hurricane Florence changed their financial situation or priorities and their plans never materialized.
Not only has she cost us time and money, Florence took our comfort, our sense of control, and, in some cases, our sense of “normal.” The more I hear from individuals, families and business leaders, the more I realize just how much the hurricane changed everything.
Here’s how Hurricane Florence has changed WARM.
Before Hurricane Florence, 174 households were on WARM’s waiting list. All had urgent needs, such as flooring repairs to address dangerous holes and soft spots, a new heating system in time for winter, or a ramp to facilitate safe entry and exit using their walker or wheelchair.
Under normal circumstances, WARM’s backlog is 12-18 months. Thanks to Hurricane Florence, many urgent repairs unrelated to the storm will have to wait even longer. Disaster recovery has become our priority.
Here’s the Hurricane Florence related work we’ve done as of March 14, 2019 in Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties:
- 34 Hurricane Florence rebuilds have been completed
- 25 Hurricane Florence rebuilds are currently under construction
- 15 Hurricane Florence rebuilds have been inspected and approved
- 79 Hurricane Florence applications have been reviewed
In total, 153 Florence homeowners
have received help or hope!
Notably, WARM has also continued our regular urgent home repair program, albeit on a smaller scale.
As we add more rebuilds and volunteers to our calendar, WARM is hiring a few more home rehabilitation professionals to ensure the continuation of high-quality work as we grow to meet the increased need. Construction professionals were in high demand even before the storm, so it has been difficult to find the right fit.
We’ve taken on new case working responsibilities such as helping people navigate the FEMA application process, handling their FEMA awards, and helping them find other resources.
On the bright side, the volume of work ahead of us has motivated all of us - faith-based communities, human service organizations, government entities, and businesses - to invest more time in working together. Each county we serve has developed its own FEMA recognized Long Term Recovery Group
. WARM employees serve on their respective committees, such as Case Working and Volunteer Management. WARM staff members chair the Construction Committees in each county.
Even before the storm, I could see compassion fatigue
impacting my colleagues. Hurricane Florence not only magnified this effect but also brought new challenges.
Like most people in the region, we were shell-shocked the first few weeks. As we began disaster related outreach, case working, assessments, fundraising and collaborating, we became overwhelmed with the tasks in front of us. We resisted and resented the change because we were exhausted from grieving with those who lost everything. And we knew we had a long, long road ahead of us.
Then, something special happened!
Donors and volunteers started coming out of the woodwork and from all over the country, inspiring us to keep going and to help our region heal.
Out of all these experiences has come a renewed sense of duty. Not one board member, employee or volunteer has given up! Six months after Hurricane Florence, we have found our new normal. We have embraced the opportunity to serve in new ways. We are developing strategies to sustain this growth so one day everyone in our region will be safe at home.
Everything has changed… even us.
Combining her professional experience in the Cape Fear region’s housing and real estate for-profit sector and volunteer experience with disaster recovery and housing-related nonprofits, JC Lyle (formerly Skane) was hired in 2009 to serve as the executive director of Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM). WARM is a grassroots nonprofit whose mission is to make homes safer by completing urgent repairs, accessibility upgrades and storm damage. Under her leadership, WARM has steadily grown from serving 44 households in 2008 to 155 households in 2016. Her public recognition includes Wilma Magazine's 2012 Woman to Watch in the Nonprofit Category, a 2014 Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Nonprofit Category, given by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and UNC Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and invitations to speak at NC Center for Nonprofits Conference and NC Affordable Housing Conference. She will graduate in May with her Master of Business Administration at UNC-Wilmington.