WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Just a few hours after they arrived home from helping with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas, Nick Hietshew and his mom Tamela started prepping for possible relief efforts in Wilmington as Hurricane Irma looms.
Tamela said after seeing Harvey's devastation on the news, she felt compelled to do something.
"When something needs to be done, you just kind of figure it out, so I just started making phone calls," she said.
Those phone calls turned into partnering with numerous local groups and businesses to collect donations for people in Texas. Some of those who Nick and Tamela partnered with included Blue Coast Realty, Miracle Movers, Uncle Sam's Misguided Children and local grocery stores, among others. They had a team of eight people go down to Texas as well. Numerous family members, friends and community members stayed at home and organized the extra donations, manned the phones, got local stores to donate food and coordinated logistics for the group.
They also made a Facebook group, Wilmington Response, to organize the donations and the community's efforts. According to Nick, there were "so many entities that had a hand" in this project. He said without them, none of this would've been possible.
"There were tons of donors that donated time and energy, if not money," he said.
According to Nick, they were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from Wilmington. They took truckloads of donations to Texas on Saturday, and had to leave an estimated four to six truckloads of donations here because they didn't have enough space.
"When you get down there and start meeting the people and seeing the devastation and what they went through, (the help, relief) was about Wilmington, and it was about them," Tamela said.
There was no detailed plan regarding how long they were going to stay in Texas, but Hurricane Irma decided for them. They raced home to be back before the storm, making a detour to pick up Nick's sister in Panama City Beach, Fla., on the way.
"We came home from one storm and it was hard for us to leave too because there's still so much work to be done down there, but we had to come home and take care of our family in the end, and at the same time, we have a lot of stock here," Nick said.
"We come home and I haven't seen my family in a week, and we have to explain to the kids, 'Hey, we may have to evacuate here' and of course because we put all of our stock in the back of our trucks, we have to scramble to get some water and necessities to get through a few days ourselves," Nick said. "At the same time as we're planning that, we're planning on collecting all of the stuff people have collected for us, and loading it on a truck and getting it out of Wilmington so it's deployed wherever it's needed to."
"If you're here with the supplies, it's hard to get the supplies into the community to help. If you're just outside the area, it's a lot easier to come in and bring the stuff into the different areas that are needed and aren't going to be easily accessible and get them out to kind of protect them."
Tamela said after seeing how devastated Texans were following Harvey, she realized how important relief efforts are, especially if Irma hits her hometown.
"Going down there and seeing what a hurricane can do, and what it can do to the community and just rip a whole state apart like it did, it brings coming back here. … It brings it home," she said.
"It's really hard to think that my community could be like that," Tamela added. "Where I'm living now, this is home. We love it here. We love the people, and I can't imagine what the people here would go through if they went they through what the people of Texas are going through."
Regardless if Irma hits Wilmington or not, Nick said they're happy to help in any disaster.
"It's good to know that you can be there for your neighbor, and hopefully by doing that, you can show other people how it can be done and accomplished more," he said. "Because in the end, it's not about what we do. It's about what the entire community does for everybody."
According to Nick and Tamela, they need money for gas to fuel the trucks, and could use more donations. Visit their Facebook page to make donations.
Here is a list of things they need:
- Toilet paper
- Disinfecting wipes
- Easy to open food that doesn’t require cooking
- Diapers sizes one, three and five
- School supplies
- Two-in-one shampoo
Here is a full list of the groups that helped with the mission:
- Blue Coast Realty
- Wilmington Taxi
- OnQ Financial
- Miracle Movers
- Masonboro Baptist Church
- Uncle Sam's Misguided Children
- The Loft on Front
- Baca Photography
- Guaranteed Rate
- Environmental Profiles
- A Bike for Every Child
- Paws and Claws
- Sunbelt Rentals
- Lowes Food
- Harris Teeter
- Food Lion
- Whole Foods
- Culligan Water