Baptist group looks to rebuild Lumberton homes destroyed by Matthew


LUMBERTON, NC (WMBF) – Long-term recovery from Hurricane Matthew is happening in Lumberton, but in order to continue rebuilding volunteers also need a place to stay to continue helping.

The North Carolina Baptist Mission aims to rebuild 1,000 homes in Lumberton. The nonprofit organization sent upwards of 80 volunteers every day as soon as they could get into Lumberton after Matthew.

Now, there are on average 25 people working every day. According to Lumberton site coordinator Billy Layton, the recovery could take as long as five years.

“It’s such a large magnitude of damage here. A lot of times your floods or tornadoes hit a concentrated area or unpopulated, but this is such a big populated area and that’s what makes it such a big project,” Layton said.

For months since Matthew, the volunteers had nowhere to consistently stay. So, in January, the Baptist Mission builders purchased an empty warehouse near the Lumberton airport to give volunteers a safe place to lay their head at night, secure their cars and gather supplies.

With the help of Lumberton city leaders, the North Carolina Baptist Mission volunteers are not only working on homes during the day, but also completely transforming the warehouse by building a tool room, bunk beds that sleep more than 100 people, a dining hall and a full kitchen.

“Two big needs is more skilled volunteers and also donations, materials or money to buy materials,” Layton said. “We have a great supply house locally that we are buying materials local and trying to help the economy, and this supply house is working very good with us. It keeps the local people working.”

Maryland Street is one neighborhood where the Baptist Mission builders have worked on nearly every single home. Kevin Bullard is one man who is still not inside his home full-time.

“You know FEMA helps, but we are one of the ones that FEMA did not help,” Bullard said. “So you know we are surviving, we are here.”

The help from the North Carolina Baptist Mission was his only hope, Bullard said.

“There used to be cars up and down this street, so many cars up and down Oregon Street over here too, but it’s like it’s a ghost town around here,” he said.

One month after Matthew, Bullard said the Baptist Mission volunteers were at his home working. Thankfully, he said they did so much more than he thought they would.

“When we left and the water was there, but they said it got to about four feet inside the house,” Bullard said. “We lost everything.”

The North Carolina Baptist Mission board will evaluate in one year how long the Lumberton teams will work out of the warehouse and rebuild the homes.

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