Tuesday, May 29, 2012


While many of us folks celebrated the unofficial start of summer with a trip to the pool or the beach, more than 1,200 volunteers spent the holiday helping rebuild homes that were devastated by Hurricane Irene. Many of those volunteers are staying at Camp Sea Gull for boys and Camp Seafarer for girls , the YMCA of the Triangle's overnight camps located on the North Carolina Coast.

Eight Days of Hope volunteers worship at
Camp Seafarer before getting to work. 
There's an invasion in Pamlico County. They came from Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina and beyond. They represent more than 45 states, all denominations and every age.

For eight days (May 26 - June 2), these volunteers are fanning out in Pamlico County repairing, and in some cases, rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Irene. It's called Eight Days of Hope.

“It's sort of like 'Extreme Makeover,' just consider it the Christian version,” said Steve Tabor, the leader of Eight Days of Hope. 

The Mississippi faith-based disaster recovery group began after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, thousands of volunteers travel the nation to rebuild homes after natural disasters. In January, Eight Days of Hope announced Pamlico County as the latest recovery mission. But where do you house nearly 2,000 volunteers? Enter Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer.

“We were so excited to help with this incredible effort,” said Elayne Steinman, associate director of Camp Seafarer. “There are still so many folks in need in our community. This is just one way we can support them.”

In fact, Camp Seafarer and Camp Sea Gull have been supporting the community since Hurricane Irene hit last August. Within days after the storm, National Guard units used the camps as a staging area. Red Cross crews bunked on the grounds. And, staff members who lost their homes lived at camp for months.

Dawn Baldwin Gibson, chair for the Pamlico County Disaster Recovery Coalition, is coordinating recovery efforts with Eight Days of Hope. Dawn was also a Camp Seafarer counselor in 1990.

“The Camps are such an asset to the community,” said Dawn. “The facilities are incredible, the summer programs are awesome, but the people are even more amazing. The staff, especially Elayne Steinman and Lynn Moss (Camp Seafarer Director), are always looking for ways to give back to the community.

I knew that Camp Seafarer and Camp Sea Gull would be the perfect place for the volunteers to stay. Eight Days of Hope directors said they'd stayed at camps before. I told them they've never seen camps like these. When leaders saw the facilities and met the staff a few months ago, they were blown away!”

But would those facilities be available so close to the start of the summer season? Dawn says Lynn Moss and Elayne Steinman made it happen.

“We prayed and prayed. Now thousands of folks are here for eight days. What a blessing. We can never thank Camp Seafarer and Sea Gull for this opportunity.”

Dawn estimates that more than $1 million dollars in manpower will be donated over the eight days effort. She can't put a price tag on the hope that is being generated.

You can follow the volunteer efforts on the group's Facebook page. Be sure to check out the pictures on Camp Sea Gull and Camp Seafarer's Facebook page.

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