“This is what we do—we take care of each other,” Darla McGlamery tells me over the phone on Monday. She’s the business agent for International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) at Local 491, which is now a small hurricane relief center. Local 491 never shut down during the duration of Hurricane Florence. Like most of ILM and surrounding areas, they didn’t have power from Thursday (Sept. 13) morning until Sunday (Sept. 16) evening around 7:30 p.m.
As of Sept. 17 McGlamery had not yet seen the state of her Lake Waccamaw home. She and her colleague, whose home is in Carolina Beach, stayed at the 1924 S. 16th St. location for higher ground and safety.
While McGlamery remained in Wilmington to keep the doors open at Local 491, her wife and child traveled to Atlanta, Georgia. “I’m excited to see them,” she offers, though, like so many evacuees and families, she has no idea when that will be.
“We were staying here to answer phone calls and respond to members as best we could during a storm situation,” she says. In the meantime, McGlamery and company are continuing to provide food, bottled water and sodas, charging stations for electronic devices and even temporary shelter, daily, for anyone in need.
“We’re not necessarily housing people,” she clarifies, “because we are not certified as an overnight shelter. . . . But if people want a respite from all of the madness, we can provide that space. . . . People have been able to keep their food in our refrigerator; we have a gas grill people can come in to cook on if they want to.”
McGlamery praises the diligence of the community at large. Their preparation and heeding warnings to get out were well received. As well, the responsiveness of state and local government has been effective.
“The amount of time and preparation [it took for] Governor Cooper and Mayor Saffo to declare a state of emergency so early, and allow trucks to move freely on the interstate as soon as possible, made a huge difference,” she says. “I was able to get gas for our generator the day after the storm. . . . People were able to continue to get gas [even if the lines were long], and I think that was a huge deal.”
While the area surrounding the center mostly is clear of debris, folks do have to navigate some obstacles. For example, a felled tree and concrete barriers were problematic on 16th Street as of Monday.
“Today alone I saw 13 people,” she counts. “Some said they came from Riegelwood, and I said ‘how did you get here?’ They said ‘I don’t know,’” she recounts. “Yesterday the water was over their car and today the water had receded enough. They knew they had a timeframe between when the tide went out and when the tide came in, so they got on the road . . . they thought they had about two and a half hours.”
Local 491’s space may change later on in the week, as the International Association of Firefighters may choose to set up their satellite command center at Local 491. However, they’ll continue to serve the community at large while resources last.
“We will have supplies but if we get a mad rush, we’ll run out of water,” McGlamery notes. “We’re down to 40 gallons of water in 16-ounce bottles.”
Luckily, NC State AFL-CIO headquarters in Raleigh is taking action to get more supplies to them. They’ve decided to use their upcoming 61st annual convention on September 20-21 to raise disaster relief funds and supply donations in coordination with the national AFL-CIO. They’ll be collecting toiletries, hand sanitizer, hygiene supplies, canned or other non-perishable foods, first-aid kits, and more.
“I have been asked to secure two parking lots for four semi-trailers that are bringing in resources people would need in a storm situation,” McGlamery adds. “Of course, we offered our parking lot, and [Steve Hall] across the street didn’t hesitate to offer his.”
According to hundreds of Wilmingtonians McGlamery has reached out to, close to IATSE 400 members, tarps also are top priority right now. “Because of downed trees and limbs in or on their houses and water seeping in,” she says. “Doesn’t sound like a lot but we came up short there. Tarps, tarps and more tarps.”
To donate to the relief fund, visit aflcionc.org. For more information about the center at Local 491, call Darla McGlamery at 910-367-1367 or Kelly Doudreaux at 912-509-7022
Other supply distribution sites throughout New Hanover County, in partnership with FEMA, the Civil Air Patrol and volunteers from General Electric, opened on Tuesday, Sept. 18. These POD sites will offer Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), water and tarps to NHC residents (including beach towns) daily from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.:
North POD – Formerly The Rock Church now being used as College Park Elementary School at 5301 Sidbury Rd., Castle Hayne.
Central POD – CFCC – Downtown Main Campus – 700 N. Front St., between Brunswick and Hanover streets. This location has a walk-up option.
South POD – Veteran’s Park – 840 Halyburton Memorial Parkway.