Many Hands Lift the Burden for Residents Recovering from Hurricane Florence

September 24, 2018 • United States
Volunteers continue to help clean up yards and homes in North Carolina.

Samaritan's Purse volunteers are taking the weight of cleanup off the shoulders of homeowners in eastern North Carolina.


Billy Connelly has lived in New Bern, on the North Carolina coast, for the past 16 years and has weathered several hurricanes from his home. But Florence was different.

Billy Connelly's home in New Bern, North Carolina, experienced wind and water damage as Hurricane Florence passed through.

Billy Connelly’s home in New Bern, North Carolina, experienced wind and water damage as Hurricane Florence passed through.

Though the storm came ashore as only a Category 1 hurricane—its winds reduced to 90 miles per hour—Florence’s harshest punch came with epic amounts of rain. New Bern began to flood. With the water rising fast at his house, Billy fled at the last minute, escaping with his 17-year-old son Dominic and his sister’s daughter Olivia.

“I had never run from a hurricane before,” he said. “This time, though, I did. It’s a good thing because my son’s life and my niece’s life could have been in danger.”

Billy drove to New York to be with family, but after the three had arrived he become restless, concerned about the status of his house. “I wanted to get back before the looters and the mold,” he said.

The next day Billy drove 12 hours to get home. “I had to snake my way back because several roads were closed and I had to manage detours,” he explained. “It was a miracle I got back.”

While driving through New Bern, Billy, who served in the Marines, was overwhelmed by the extent of the damage. So what still awaited him at his own property?

Volunteers help Billy Connelly remove valuables from his hurricane-damaged home.

Volunteers help Billy Connelly remove valuables from his hurricane damaged home.

The floodwaters had receded from inside his home, but from the muddy line left behind, Billy knew his house had taken on two feet of water. The furniture and electronics were destroyed.

The next day, while standing in his front yard, Billy was overwhelmed by the amount of cleanup work that had to be done. He silently prayed to God, asking for help.

After praying, Billy turned around and two Samaritan’s Purse team members walked up, asking if he needed help. “At first I thought they meant they would help me clean up my yard,” he said. “They then explained that a team of volunteers would come and tear out everything that was waterlogged and would carry everything that was damaged to the curb and also do some chainsaw work in my backyard. The weight of the world was lifted. I had hope.”

Billy, who committed his life to Jesus Christ 16 years ago, knew God had answered his prayer. “I knew that some way, somehow, sometime God would come and bless me with a miracle. It happened through you!”

Helping Hands Lighten the Load

For two days last week, our volunteers worked diligently, mudding out Billy’s home, getting it ready to be repaired.

Eric Cedars of New Bern was one of those volunteers. The community college where Eric works was closed, so he invested his time off in helping fellow local residents to cope with the aftermath of Florence. “I was fortunate that my home had no damage,” Eric said. “I felt led to volunteer.”

This was the first time Eric had ever mudded out a home. “I had never torn out floors before, but I was glad to assist Billy, who needed our help. He really appreciated what we were able to do.”

Joe Buck, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, also was glad to come alongside Billy in his time of need—in the name of Jesus Christ. “I believe God spared my house because He’s given me a skill in chainsawing,” he said. “I have worked with downed trees before, and I believe God wanted me here.”

When the job was complete, the volunteers presented Billy a special Billy Graham Training Bible, which they had all signed. Billy was moved.

“That was a special moment,” he said. “That Bible is going to be a part of my life till the end of my days, and I hope a part of my family for generations.”

Note: Volunteer opportunities are available in New Bern, Wilmington, and Jacksonville. To learn more, go to