As Hurricane Florence fizzles out, devastation to cities throughout North Carolina continues to pile up, requiring many students enrolled in eastern North Carolina colleges to remain with family and friends. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is home to over 16,000 students with seventy-eight percent living in dorms on campus and in affiliated housing off campus. The Chancellor of the university, Jose V. Sartarelli, initiated a mandatory campus-wide evacuation on September 10. The Wilmington area received tremendous damage, with flooding over I-40E cutting off transportation into the area, along with buildings on the UNCW campus receiving damage.
In order to help the devastation, UNCW students founded the program We Wilm Rebuild. They describe their program on their website as “a Hurricane Florence is disaster relief and Wilmington rehabilitation project”. Being a disaster relief and rehabilitation project means in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, their main focus is on the rebuilding the communities affected through donations. The program gained steam through their Instagram page @wewilmrebuild, which has ten thousand followers. Followers range from companies throughout North Carolina who are donating their products and money, to college students and their families. Other North Carolina residents who are also involved in the process of rebuilding and donating canned goods along with other non-perishable items.
The founders of We Wilm Rebuild, Jaz Vanscoy and Wes Porter, gathered a group of UNCW students in order to begin their program. With support from Adrian Martinca who is the founder and chairman of Technology For the Future, Martinca’s foundation provides equal access to technology for students and kids. Through time and technological support, they were able to launch the foundations of Re Wilm Rebuild.
Marissa Giamportone, a freshman at UNCW has lent her time with We Wilm Rebuild throughout the Raleigh and Wake Forest area. “I saw it [We Wilm Rebuild] posted on a friend’s social media and went to their Instagram to really look at what they were doing for the community and who they were helping,” said Giamportone.
The program attracted many others like Giamportone to contribute to the cause, with opportunities to donate or volunteer time to run a donation station in North Carolina. Along with those with families on the coast and in high flooded areas in the state, donations also will travel to areas on the South Carolina coast that were affected as well.
While We Wilm Rebuild is not the only group interested in helping North Carolina communities, Giamportone explains the process of the drives that occur throughout North Carolina. “I got involved by signing up to be notified of any donation drives and then volunteering at the Wake Forest drive on Monday [September 17] from seven am till seven pm,” said Giamportone.
Donation groups, especially Giamportone and her group at the Wake Forest drive, found alternative methods of transportation for getting the supplies for the drive into affected areas. “We ended up finding some private planes that people were offering to donate for the cause to transfer supplies,” said Giamportone. The support for donation groups has been major, with companies offering time and money in sponsoring groups like We Wilm Rebuild.
We Wilm Rebuild stresses their organization as dedicated to helping communities and families and making it their number one priority. A GoFundMe to raise money for affected families as well as an online store featuring clothing and mugs donates the proceeds to communities as well. The GoFundMe has raised nearly 9000 dollars by 165 people in only thirteen days. We Wilm Rebuild hosted thirty-nine official donation sites across North Carolina and areas of South Carolina. However the countless number of “unofficial” donation sites brought in large quantities of food and supplies for the effort.
With the growth of Re Wilm Rebuild, the team now opened a warehouse in High Point, North Carolina, where extra supplies can be saved and stored to last through the year as the reconstruction goes on in Wilmington.
The program is now moving onto “Phase Two” of their program. This involves the closing of active donation drives throughout the state, and now are in the process of distributing the donations to communities via their consolidation site located in Wilmington NC. From there, throughout the following weeks, We Wilm Rebuild and its volunteers will host weekend pick up sites for families in Wilmington. The support from the community, especially college students, has been overwhelming, with many students being the leaders of the donation sites and starting up ones in their communities.
If interested in helping the distribution of goods to communites, donating money via GoFundMe or locating the nearest community drop off, more information can be found on their website at wewilmrebuild.org