Strangers help bring Christmas to neighborhood affected by Florence

Strangers help bring Christmas to neighborhood affected by Florence

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Before, during and after Hurricane Florence, strangers helped strangers.

Almost three months after the storm, two women are trying to bring a sense of normalcy at Christmas during a time that feels anything but.

Debbie Crafa and Lori Angel saw WECT’s story on the Northchase neighborhood in October. The women said they were inspired by the neighbors' devotion to help each other, and wanted to do anything they could to help these strangers.

They are collecting $25 Walmart gift cards to give to families to buy Christmas presents, and bought a teddy bear for every child affected in Northchase.

Florence forced more than 100 residents there to gut their homes. Crafa and Angel’s homes weren’t damaged by Florence, so they said, as did others, that they felt like they should help those who didn’t have the same good luck.

“If you’ve met any of the people who live in this community, there are maybe 10-15 people that had no damage, but that are so devoted to helping their neighbors," Angel said. "It’s such a tight community. If you were ever to speak to any of these individuals, your heart would go out to them, and I think we just feel like, it’s one thing to write a check, but it’s another to actually reach out and help them find resources.”

“What the kids need is just that they’re remembered at Christmas," Crafa added. “They’re living with friends and there are 66 children that are displaced. They need a little bit of something to know that it’s Christmas and that they’re being remembered.”

Mary Lou Keuffer is one of those neighbors the women are helping.

”It’s a strange feeling because I’ve always been on the other side," Keuffer said. “I’ve always been volunteering. I went to (Hurricane) Katrina back in 2005 to help for a couple of weeks with the Red Cross.

“The spirit that they came to this with, the volunteers to say, ‘What can I do?’ or not even asking, just saying, ‘You need this’ and they took off to take a particular project.”

Crafa and Angel said they’ll keep advocating for the neighborhood after Christmas.

“When you meet these young families and you see how dedicated they are to helping each other, you know it’s relationships that will be formed and bonds," Angel said.

Crafa and Angel are also asking for volunteers and donations for the Northchase neighborhood. Email to help, or go to

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