ELIZABETHTOWN — There may be questions about where “ground zero” is located after Hurricane Matthew passed through the region on Oct. 8, but there is no question where “ground zero” is when it comes to collection sites for those in need throughout Bladen County and beyond.
Kinlaw Furniture’s warehouse, located next to the Bladen County Crisis Thift Store on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in downtown Elizabethtown, is continually getting filled with everything from food to clothing, bedding to toiletries, water to diapers, mattresses to toys and so much more.
“The response has been crazy overwhelming,” said Jean Clark of Kinlaw Furniture. “We’re really just shocked at the response.”
She added that five dressed hogs, 20 pounds of chicken and “quite a bit” of venison had been sent from the processing plant in Clarkton.
Clark said the collection actually started at East Bladen High, where the storm shelter had opened when the storm hit, and then continued at Elizabethtown Police Department. But when the EPD could not handle everything that was being donated, Kinlaw Furniture stepped in.
“It’s what my daddy (the late Calvin Sasser) would have wanted us to do,” Clark said. “So we started sending our vans to the police department to pick up items and bring them here.”
Clark added that her daughter, Brooke McMichael, and Amber Avant — each a police officer’s wife — also were instrumental in getting the collection started.
Since the poeration was moved to the Kinlaw warehouse, an army of volunteers have been working to organize and get the items out to the Kelly area, Fair Bluff, White Lake and even the Lumberton area.
“We aren’t giving things out to individuals,” Clark said. “We are focusing on the needs of those in shelters and where FEMA is working with folks.”
Friday morning, the volunteers were told of about 250 migrant workers who were stranded at Sleepy Creek Farm on N.C. 210.
“It sounds like they are on an island,” said Joy Warren, a volunteer at the Kinlaw warehouse. “So we’ll get everything we can out to them with the help of the White Lake Fire department.”
Also on Friday, volunteers were putting together 100 hygiene kits for the Fair Bluff area.
Clark couldn’t say enough about the community’s response.
“As the word gets out through Facebook and word-of-mouth, things just keep coming in — and we get them out as quickly as we can,” she said. “Whatever I put on Facebook starts showing up as soon as 30 minutes later.”
Clark added that there have been items people as far away as Washington, D.C., and Charlotte have ordered from Walmart to be picked up by the local volunteers.
“The love for other people is really amazing,” she said.
Clark said the effort will continue “as long as we have items, volunteers to help distribute and the need is there.”
Among all of the volunteers, Clark said groups from East Bladen High students and teachers, Clarkton Presbyterian Church, Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church and Elizabethtown Police Department have been heavily involved from the start.
Anyone with items to donate can do so between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Kinlaw warehouse. For information, call 910-862-3325.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.