WHITE OAK — Around 800 plates of food went out to the White Oak community Friday, just as many people along Burney Road were able to get out of their homes.
“We didn’t have a huge number of people with water in their homes, but we had a lot of people who haven’t been able to get out until today,” said Neil Gooden, a White Oak resident who was delivering hot meals to the community Saturday.
Flooding from Hurricane Florence left area residents stranded as creeks spilled over into roadways, leaving homes along Burney Road inaccessible from either direction. The community is flanked by both the Cape Fear River and Harrison Creek, both of which swelled to historic levels.
As water levels abated, White Oak Baptist Church, along with the White Oak Volunteer Fire Department, was serving food to the community through a drive-through service at the fire department and delivery to the homes that could be reached.
Gooden was stopping people on the street to pass out boxed meals consisting of bagged chips, ham and cheese sliders, baked beans, potato salad and fruit.
Gary Murchison was on his way out to pay for a meal when he received several boxes.
“We didn’t lose power, but we haven’t been able to go anywhere for a week,” he said, expressing relief that a nearby bridge had opened Friday.
The feeding was made possible by Mercy Chefs, a Virginia-based organization devoted to mass feeding following national emergencies or natural disasters. The group — operating out of Vertical Church in Elizabethtown — has been cooking 1,200 meals each day. Deliveries of 300 or 400 have been going out for lunch and dinner to communities like Clarkton, Bladenboro, White Oak and Kelly.
“They’re cooking really nice meals,” said Vertical Church member Janie Allen. “One of the meals was a Salisbury steak with mushroom gravy — these communities are getting good, hot food.”
“You shouldn’t have to think about what you’re going to eat at a time like this,” Gooden was telling residents as he handed out boxes.
Allen said the group was transitioning Sunday from relief, which focused on feeding, to recovery, the focus of which would be cleaning supplies and home rebuilding.
Vertical Church is serving as the distribution hub for food and supplies but is not distributing either food or supplies directly to people. Rather, necessities are going out to community distribution sites, which hand the goods out to residents.
White Oak resident Neil Gooden, right, delivered meals to residents in his community Saturday.
The driveway to a home on the private road White Oak National Drive is inundated with water from the Cape Fear River on Saturday.
Flooded roads like this section of River Road left many White Oak residents unable to leave their homes.
The owners of this White Oak home were pumping water from the yard across the road Saturday in order to begin assessing the damage inside.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-247-9133 or emailing email@example.com.