And donations — monetary as well as supplies, food and clothing — are now being accepted by different agencies working to help the county’s tornado victims.
Both are needed, officials said, in a county that’s damage estimate is likely to climb to $13 million when final assessments are complete.
FEMA officials were on the ground in Sampson Monday beginning door-to-door visits with tornado victims, just two business days after this county was placed on the list for federal disaster aid.
EMS director Ronald Bass said once Sampson was placed on that list late last Thursday, county officials had to select a potential recovery center site, which they did — the second floor meeting room of the Human Services Building (Bldg. E) just off Rowan Road. The FEMA visits was another offshot of getting on that list.
Although it won’t open until FEMA staff inspect it, the recovery center will be a virtual one-stop facility where tornado victims can meet face-to-face with federal emergency staffers and Small Business Association personnel, go over disaster applications and move through the process of getting some assistance.
“If our site meets FEMA’s needs and we get the OK, I’m expecting the center to be open in the next day or so,” Bass noted.
But he cautioned that the first step for tornado victims still needs to be a call to FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 or a visit to the agency’s website — www.fema.gov.
“That needs to be done before they come to the center,” Bass stressed.
While there will be criteria that needs to be met for the disaster relief, Bass emphasized the need for residents to seek the assistance. “Even if you lost a lot of food in your freezer, you need to call that number. There is quite a few dollars that will be available in that fund, and I urge residents impacted by the storm to see if they can receive any of it.”
Although the numbers are still very fluid, damage estimates in Sampson County could climb to that $13 million mark, with, at last count, 87 residential properties and 37 commercial properties receiving some sort of damage. Estimates on farm damage are still being assessed.
“We are trying to be very careful,” Bass said. “We want to make sure we have exact numbers and don’t leave anything out.”
That includes expenses incurred by Sampson and its municipalities during the storm, a portion of which will be reimbursed. “We’re not sure what amount yet, but there’s a meeting Tuesday in Fayetteville where we’ll get that application. I know we will get some reimbursement; I’m just not sure how much,” Bass said.
As federal assistance begins to wind its way into Sampson, residents here are seeking avenues in which to help their neighbors either by offering monetary contributions or donations of food, clothing and supplies.
Donations for those storm victims are now being accepted at Sampson County’s Department of Aging and through the Eastern Baptist Association, two organizations which have already begun reaching out to residents in need.
“We are collecting items now,” said Lorie Sutton, Aging director. I’ve already had some people calling or coming by to bring us things — household supplies, clothes, things like that — our next step is finding out who needs these items.”
Sutton is urging storm victims in need of help, particularly in terms of things that need to be replaced, such as clothes or food, to call her at 592-4653. “If they’ll call me, we can possibly connect them with someone who has items they may need.
“And, we are gathering items here in the office, too, to distribute. We just need to hear from the victims.”
Sutton has already provided some of those donations to the Sampson Crisis Center, where many people first turn for assistance in times of crisis.
Also accepting donations is the Eastern Baptist Association, whose N.C. Baptist Men’s organization already has boots on the ground in Sampson, working to saw trees and remove debris from residents’ yards.
“They (Baptist Men) have already started working in Sampson,” said Donna Landes, EBA church and community ministries director. “They’ve cleaned up seven yards on Isaac Weeks and Governor Moore roads, as well as in the Bonnetsville area, I think.”
Like Sutton, Landes said donations are being accepted by the EBA. Monetary donations can be mailed to the EBA’s Warsaw address at P.O. Box 712, Warsaw, N.C. 28398. “Just write Sampson tornado relief in the memo line and that donation will automatically be used for tornado relief,” Landes said.
Other contributions of food, clothes and household supplies can be taken to Landes Office Solutions, 104 Fayetteville St., Clinton, where Landes said she can sort through and separate things to be distributed to those in need.
“All I ask is that those donated items be gently used.”
Landes said once all the needs were assessed, she hoped to set up a location for all donations somewhere in Clinton or Sampson County. “I feel certain that will happen before long,” she said.
Since the April 16 tornadoes hit, residents have been out in force helping those devastated by the storms. Last week, on Andrews Chapel Road, dozens of men, women and children from Mintz Baptist Church were removing debris from two decimated homes and trying to salvage anything that could be found for two families left with virtually nothing.
Just a few miles away, at Bonnetsville, others were doing much the same.
It was a sight county commissioners chairman Jefferson Strickland said could be seen across Sampson.
“It’s neighbor helping neighbor,” Strickland said last week during one of several tours he took of the hardest hit areas of Sampson.
“There’s nothing more heartwarming to see than the compassion of our fellow Sampsonians willing to roll up their shirtsleeves and help out in any way they can. Our residents can always be counted on here, and they’ve proven that again in the aftermath of these storms.”