Friday, December 9, 1977 Weekender 11
Local residents volunteer
aid to Nov. flood victims
By EVELYN SAHR
; Staff Writer
While many Chapel Hillians were
snuggled up to their televisions and
radios during recent weekends, one
group of local residents were wading
through mud and flood waters in
western North Carolina.
Six residents journeyed to Yancey
County for Thanksgiving, geared with
chain saws, axes and shovels, to aid the
victims of November floods which
caused extensive damage to houses and
property in that area. Another half
dozen workers joined them for the
remainder of the weekend.
The volunteers were organized by Lee
Biggar, a concerned citizen, and Maggie
Scarborough, a representative of the
Chaplain's Association of Chapel Hill.
Once they arrived in the Burnsville area
of Yancey County, the volunteers were
directed to flood victims by WAMY, a
community action organization active
in Wautauga, Ashe, Mitchell and
WAMY provided the workers with
food and reimbursement for travel
expenses, and found them sleeping
quarters in a local community center.
The volunteers performed such
chores as chopping wood and building
bridges for the residents of the flood
?The lack of firewood was a serious
problem among many of the people in
the Burnsville area," said volunteer
Marc Laster. "I'd say approximately 95
percent of the people heat their homes
by wood and, since the flood 'washed
much of it away, many were left without
any way to heat their homes.
While the volunteers were successful
in helping a few of the families in need of
firewood, they ran into problems when
they were asked to rebuild an access
bridge to the home of an 85-year-old '
According to Biggar, the group of
volunteers needed to purchase hand
rails and planking to complete the
bridge, but was unable to get the funds
to do so.
"Many of the local churches had
donated substantial sums of money to
be used for aiding the flood victims, but
none of them would allocate their funds
until they could determine which people
and which areas needed it most," Biggar
"It was an exasperating experience
for us. We went up there to help the
flood victims, but we couldn't finish
what we started to do without funds."
Eventually, each church involved
donated $200 to WAMY so that some
projects could at least be started while
the churches were deciding where to
allocate the rest of the funds. The
Chapel Hill group, although it did
receive $85 of that money for supplies,
was still unable to complete the bridge
because four inches of snow fell soon
after it received the money, making
access to the woman's property difficult.
"While I do feel we were of some help
to the Burnsville residents, I was
extremely disappointed in the lack of
organization between the local
churches, service organizations and city,
county and federal government
officials," Biggar said. "The Feds
weren't sharing information with city
and county officials and, overall, there
was a tremendous amount of potential
volunteer energy wasted that could have
been put to constructive use."
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