WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Six months after Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina coast, one man is working to make sure victims are not forgotten despite losing everything himself.
Dustin Casteen is the owner of Switching Gears Bicycle Ministry, and has spent the past three years helping others in need by giving out bikes in exchange for small acts of community service.
When Florence hit, Casteen says he knew he needed to get himself and his pregnant wife out of the home they had just purchased.
“The next morning, we tried to get to the house and couldn’t even get to the house because it was so flooded but we could see through the trees that the water was about six inches from the eaves of our house,” Casteen said.
He lost everything, but instead of worrying about himself, Casteen turned to his ways of serving others, and immediately began to help.
“There were about 60 people on their roofs, and they were trapped in that development so me and my dad put a boat in the water and helped get people to safety," he said. "I then came home and basically told my wife that we had lost everything.”
Casteen, who lives to serve others, quickly found others would be quick to help him as well.
“The first day that the water subsided so we could get to our home, we had 34 people from our church and our community show up and completely muck out our home," Casteen said.
The community was able to raise around $30,000 to help the Casteen family with repairs.
“You can imagine being in a situation where you’ve just signed up for a mortgage, and you lose your whole house," Casteen said. "We had estimated $80,000 worth of damage. FEMA was good enough to give us something but it was nothing compared to what it was going to take to fix our house.”
While they are still displaced, the Casteens remain optimistic.
Casteen hasn’t set a move-in date “because we don’t want to be disappointed” but through the ministry work, he is hopeful the next six months will bring more positive change.
"We’ll be in a lot better spot than we were six months ago,” he said.
While the Casteens’ story is one of hope, he says many are being forgotten, and even government assistance can only do so much.
“I think FEMA is doing the best they can but a lot of people are falling through the cracks," Casteen said. “A lot of people don’t have a place to live or they’re living in a situation that is a lot worse than where they were living because there’s such a shortage of real estate inventory. People are living in some really nasty conditions. I’ve heard a lot of stories about bed bugs and infestations of different bugs and being in addiction ridden areas where they’re not familiar with that type of lifestyle.”