The Helpers Come Out for Hurricane Florence

Alderman Jameesha Harris knocks on doors in New Bern, North Carolina, urging people to get to safety. Anella Jane

Fred Rogers, host and creator of "Mister Roger's Neighborhood," often shared his mother's words of wisdom in times of trouble. "My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

With Hurricane Florence battering the Carolina coast, the helpers are out in full force.

Here are just some of the people quietly working to help those in need.

Making room for furry friends

Ali Standish, who has two rescue dogs of her own, went to Saving Grace, an animal shelter in Wake Forest, North Carolina, to pick up a foster dog, leaving more room for coastal shelters to evacuate their animals before the storm hit. When she got there, she saw that plenty of other animal lovers had the same idea. There was a long line stretching in front of her. She snapped a photo and shared it on Twitter.

"This was a chance to make space for a dog who otherwise might not have been safe, who might not otherwise have been able to find a home, and so it felt like the right thing to do," Standish tells Treehugger.

"And yes, I was surprised! So many people showed up during rush hour when most everyone else was busy prepping for the storm. It was so great to see."

Making visitors welcome

When about 100 residents of a senior residence near Charleston, South Carolina, were evacuated to a hotel in Fairburn, Georgia, local officials wanted to make them feel comfortable during their stay. The police department handed out the following letter and then posted on Facebook asking for books, games and toiletries to make the visitors' time away from home as pleasant as possible.

"We made a couple of phone calls. Everybody pulled together: The churches, the bishop. I mean if we said 'Thank You' a thousand times, it wouldn't even hit the surface ..." Hazel Patterson, general manager of the senior facility, Somerby of Mount Pleasant, told WSB-TV.

A place to stay

While some evacuees are struggling to find a place to stay as they flee their homes, Oglebay resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, is offering free accommodations through Sept. 20 to anyone with a North Carolina or South Carolina driver's license and proof of residency.

"The citizens of West Virginia have long been known for their willingness to help those in need. And with Hurricane Florence moving toward the Carolinas, Oglebay is opening its arms to evacuees," says a statement on the resort's website.

Here comes the Cajun Navy

America's Cajun Navy, a volunteer organization based out of Lafayette, Louisiana, says it's sending more than 1,000 volunteers with more than 800 boats to help in the Carolinas. The informal group does search and rescue, particularly during flooding, and their work became critical in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Taylor Fontenot, the Texas captain of America’s Cajun Navy, spoke to Fox 26 before heading out.

"First seven days is usually search and rescue," he said. "First four or five days is usually human. Last two will be probably focused towards animal."

Knocking on doors

Alderwoman Jameesha Harris of New Bern, North Carolina, kept her social media active as the storm hit, offering updates on the weather and rescue efforts. She represents the majority of the minority ward, including the Trend Court Apartments, which was very likely to flood when the storm hit.

Harris got her mother, father, three kids and two dogs to her brother's home in Charlotte, but she stayed put, knowing she wanted to help people in her community.

"I felt that I couldn’t leave because we needed all hands on deck. I started using my social media on my regular page and alderwoman page to urge people to get out," she tells MNN.

Along with others, Harris started knocking on doors in the half-submerged Trent Court, urging people to get to safety.

A friend told her about a father, mother and baby who were nearly underwater in Trent Court. She and her husband were able to rescue them. A day later, they got seven more families to shelters.

"The didn't want to leave," she told Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America" in the video above. "These are people that are just so distraught they can't believe their homes are literally going to be underwater in hours."

Opening their home

The Riker family hosted a picnic dinner for evacuees who are staying with his family and others in the area.
The Riker family hosted a picnic dinner for evacuees who are staying with his family and others in the area. Robert Riker

Robert Riker posted in a Wilmington, North Carolina, community group on Facebook, offering his Waynesville home to a family seeking shelter.

"We have evacuated our share of Hurricanes and know the worry and fear with uncertainty — and we know what it's like to lose it all to a Hurricane," he posted. "We are willing to open our home to you and invite you to join our family for the time needed for the storm to pass and get the all clear that it's safe to return."

Before they moved to North Carolina, the family lived in Jacksonville, Florida.

"While there, we fled several hurricanes and know the unexpected expense of eating out, hotel, etc. can quickly add up — all at a time when you're full of anxiety and uncertainty with not knowing what you'll return to," Riker tells MNN. "We simply wanted to help others who find themselves in the same situation now find a place where they'll be safe, protected, welcomed and fed. At the end of the day, we only have each other in life to help each other out. While it might not be conventional to open your home to complete strangers, we refused to let fear or worry overpower our desire to help our fellow Carolinians."

They've had several people inquire, and the Rikers were adamant they weren't going to turn anyone away.

"At one point, we were thinking we would have 14 additional strangers in our home. But, one family wound up sheltering in Charlotte and another stayed when the storm downgraded to a 2 and took a slight dip South. So, we have only a family of four that took us up on our offer."