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Wednesday 24 April 2019
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Effingham Residents Reaching Out To Hurricane Victims

“Loving Thy Neighbor”
Ricky and Kim Stalnaker
story by Cindy Burbage     photos by Shelia Scott
This past September, the first major hurricane of the Atlantic for 2018 made landfall along the North Carolina coast. Hurricane Florence dumped vast amounts of rain water causing major flooding and catastrophic damage to areas in her path. Neighboring states, along with the rest of the country, watched in terror and disbelief as the first glimpses of the photos and videos of devastation began circulating the news and internet. However, the images would prove to become the tool that stirred the compassion of neighboring viewers and show a divine intervention.
After seeing the news coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, members of the Effingham community, which included the Stalnaker family, decided to take action and offer help. Springfield resident, Kim Stalnaker, described how their efforts initiated, “Ricky, my husband, Zach, my youngest son, and my oldest son, Rick all work at the Sugar Refinery together. The conversation about going to North Carolina started there. All of a sudden, people started saying ‘I’ll go, and I’ll go.’ When I found out they were going, I said I am going too, we would make it a family thing.”
“We ended up with approximately twenty people with trucks, trailers and boats. We had a horse trailer full of supplies. Our contact was in New Bern, NC, where some of the worst flooding had taken place. It was a long drive because some of the roads were washed out and we had to take several detours,” Kim explained.
The battered roads were part of a bigger plan designed by God. Upon facing the washed-out roadway, the group met a couple from a nearby area, Senona and Michael Krieser; they had something to do with a fire department in a small town. “At that point, we were allowed to go thru the rushing water. It was so bad we all rolled our windows down and took our seat belts off just in case we were swept over the road,” Kim depicted. The new-found friends assisted the battery of helpers and their convoy through road blocks, so they could continue on the mission.
The group had planned to meet the police at a drop off point in New Bern with the collected supplies and with the idea of volunteering their help with the locals in need. “We met with a police office and were basically told they appreciate our supplies, we could take them to their warehouse and leave them; but they did not need us. And we should just go back home. But we knew people would be in need. Tre Evans called the people [Kriesers] we had met in the parking lot and they said come to our farm and camp for the night,” Kim explained.
“We were not really prepared to camp; everyone had planned to just sleep in their vehicles. At this point, it was dark, and the rivers were cresting. It was just dangerous,” she remembered.
“Around 9 pm, a vehicle pulled into where we were staying begging for help. They knew of a family that was in desperate need-they were flooded! All the guys left and were gone for hours. During the rescues, a dead cow floated by,” Kim recalled.
“It was after 2am before we got back, Ricky added. They ended up rescuing about fifteen people and two dogs and a cat. “Carl the cat,” Zach jokingly shared.  “We feel like God just orchestrated the whole thing. He put us in that place and put Senona and Michael Krieser in our path for a reason. If we had not met with them, there would not have been anyone to help these folks,” Kim thankfully said.
“We were in such a tiny little area. It was near Dover and Trenton, they didn’t have anyone to help. It was a blessing when we were turned away from New Bern. Although we were frustrated at first, looking back we could see God put us in their path. Our guys were right where they needed to be to do these rescues. That was pretty incredible that night,” she meekly shared.
Kim continued, “The people whose farm we were staying at had no power or water; the guys brought back all fifteen people they had rescued and the Kriesers welcomed all fifteen. It was people stacked on top of people. These people were just devastated. The reality was setting in that they had lost everything. No one got sleep that night. Everyone was trying to digest what happened that night and what everyone had seen.
With the rising water levels, it was to the point that the group would have to leave, or we would be marooned there. “We were near the Cape Fear and Neuse River, and the water was starting to rise. If we had not left early that morning, we would have been stuck. We came on home; it took hours because of road closures,” they described.
Once home, the group would quickly realize help was still needed. “Senona reached out and said they could really use some resources. When you are in a small community like that, that isn’t top priority. We know that the people that we helped did not have flood insurance; they were not in a flood zone. That was another concern. Ricky decided we needed to do something, so he called and said we need to try to organize something. That was on a Wednesday. On Saturday we had a 48 ft enclosed trailer slap full of supplies. We took two more boats full of bottled water. The trailer had canned goods, baby items, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items. A company donated 800 bags of potato chips and cookies,” Kim appreciatively declared.
“It was people we knew, it was people we didn’t know. The word got out! One thing that Senona said was can you bring some bibles because their faith is all they have left. We put that out there, we had over 1000 bibles collected-new, used, people donated their family bibles,” Kim emotionally shared.
“We also collected livestock supplies and feed; this was a farming community. One man had a 150 head of cattle and could only find 30 of his cows,” Zach stated.
“It was shocking when we went back a week later to deliver the supplies. The Kriesers were very instrumental in getting us back in touch with ones we had rescued. Because they knew the lay of the land, they were helpful. They were grateful! The devastation when you go back during the day was overwhelming,” Kim added.
Kim remembered, “There was an elderly couple who had been in their home for over 53 years, their house was a total loss. It’s just hard to think about. It was up on a hill; how could it flood? Her son had gone to the creek banks at 7pm and said the water is not out of the banks; he thought they would be fine. At 9pm, water was in the house already to 18 inches. That tells you how quickly the water was moving. It looked like a single-story farmhouse that first night, after viewing during the day, reality was it was a two-story home. After a week there was so much still under water. No flood insurance because they were not in a flood zone. I do keep in touch with them. Their church decided to have Sunday service in their yard and immediately after church everyone would start helping them tear out the damage from their home. Some homes that we visited had water to the ceiling. One young couple had just bought their little home and flood insurance wasn’t required. They had worked so hard to save their money to buy their little home. But they just stayed positive and never lost their faith. They will rebuild slowly. I saw some of their Thanksgiving photos and they are so grateful for what they do have-their lives.”
The Stalnakers are just a small fraction of this very large picture. The battery of help included: Bill Butler, Tre’ Evans, Sid & Shelly Bragg, Dannie Barras, Joseph & Brittany Barras, Jordan Dellinger, Alan & Christa Gnann, Mike Kolcum, Michael Williams, Walt Boykin, Brian Roddenberry, Lucas Roddenberry, and Rusty Roddenberry. Brittany Barras did an amazing job coordinating donation pick-ups. With and an abundant of gratefulness, Kim continued, “The way that our community came together was unbelievable. People donated money for fuel. Saying we can’t go with you, but we want to help you get there. People donated trucks. So generous! The people there were just so appreciative. We were overwhelmed with gratefulness from our community.”
Rick continued with his overwhelming gratitude, “Jasper Feed & Seed donated. Webb’s in Springfield. Attorneys donated, churches collected, hair dressers. We got a call on the way that an old squirrel hunter out of SC wanted to give. We had to pull off an exit on the way at 5am for him. He gave us $150 and said he wanted to pay for someone’s fuel to get there. Scott Thompson from Guyton, organized supplies and we picked up from the United Way”
After having some time to reflect on their journey. The Stalnakers shared, “It was a life changing thing! We believe what the bible says, “Love your neighbor as yourself” The whole time we were immersed in that, no one asked if you were a democrat or a republican or what your religion was. No one cared, we were just brothers and sisters. We were just people helping people; doing what we were supposed to do. No one cared what you looked like or how much money you had. No one could deny who orchestrated the entire thing. Even people that might not be believers, left believing.”
This group of kind people, each with a servant’s heart, can only be described as divine. “Having a servant’s heart is being helpful to a person no matter their circumstances and situation; having compassion to want to help them from the start.” Unknown
Hebrews 6:10 (CSB)For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you demonstrated for his name by serving the saints- and by continuing to serve them.
And for a brief moment, the chaos of the world stood still and for that one moment everyone was loving thy neighbor.