OUMC Repairs Still Underway

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OUMC Repairs Still Underway

Monthly fundraisers will help the church rebuild after hurricane damage.

Both the Ocracoke United Methodist Church on School Road and the parsonage on Howard Street were severely damaged in Hurricane Dorian from the storm surge flooding.

A year later, the church sits nine feet above sea level on 120 new pilings ("closer to Heaven" says Pastor Susie Fitch-Slater) and a foundation designed to withstand 140 mph winds. 

"We've spent $200,000 so far on architectural plans, pilings, sand, lifting and repairs," said OUMC Board of Trustees chair Gary Davis in a recent phone interview. "Most of that has come from donations. It's overwhelming what people have donated. We are so grateful."

Another $68,000 has gone into elevating and repairing the parsonage. Meanwhile, Pastor Susie and her husband, Tom, have lived on and off the island with friends and family, and are finally settled into a three-month lease in one of the Lighthouse Road condos. The Ocracoke Interfaith Relief & Recovery Team is helping with those rent payments; Susie volunteers as one of OIRRT's executive committee members. The OIRRT is also purchasing a whole-house generator for the parsonage. 

"The priority is to get Susie back into the parsonage, then we'll work on the church interior," Gary said. 

Built in 1943 from pieces of the Ocracoke Methodist Church, North and the Ocracoke Methodist Church South, the 77 year-old building held "lots of surprises" for contractors. 

"It will take another $250,000 to get the church back in order," Gary said. Those costs include all-new floors, wiring, HVAC systems, insulation, electronics, and stairs to reach the now-higher church. The there'll be mold remediation and painting. 

"We're going to restore the sanctuary the way it was," Gary reassured me and anyone else who might be worried. (It was the cutest church ever, so it better still be!) "All the pews tipped over so we're hoping to get volunteers to refinish them." 

Church leaders are working on a design for the front of the church that's in keeping with the historic look, and includes sidewalks and handicap access. 

Twig Rollins, who heads up the Methodist volunteer crews who are helping with church repairs, salvaged the original sanctuary flooring to reuse in the back part of the church.   

Gary is also acting as grant administrator for OUMC for the grants they've received from the Rotarians ($14,000) and Golden Leaf Foundation ($95,149). 

"I'm applying to the [Small Business Administration] for a loan, and will apply to the Duke Foundation," Gary said. "Funds-wise, we are about $100,000 short of what we need to finish everything. It's daunting, but we do the best we can."

The hardest part, he says, is finding labor to do the work. Getting Methodist volunteers to the island was difficult and then COVID temporarily shut that resource down.

Local contractor Tom Pahl has been "really, really helpful," said Gary. "We put out a request for proposal and got one response – from Tom. And he's been working at a reduced fee for us. But he's had to deal with the architect's demands, the house movers, the pilings contractor. Ocracoke just has limited resources. At one point, the piling contractor told Tom he'd pay him $100 a day not to call him!" 

Gary gave shout-outs to some local volunteers: Nelson Adams and Richard Waldrop have been invaluable help to him. Debbie Wells and Alison Serafin cleaned up the parsonage yard ("They were being good neighbors and organized others to help," he said.)

The church yard now holds a trailer that's the office for the Methodist Disaster Response Team and the laundry trailer that's a blessing for still-displaced island residents. The church Rec Hall wasn't damaged in Dorian and was available for meetings and worship until COVID, and for office needs for Susie. (It has wi-fi!)

For now, Pastor Susie joins in with Pastor Ivey Belch from Ocracoke Lifesaving Church to provide Facebook Live Sunday services from the yard at Books to Be Red. (Over the past six months, they've also used the front porch of the school and the Variety Store parking lot for drive-in services.) Susie also hosts a daily devotional on the church's Facebook page each morning. 

The monthly dinner fundraisers will help the church with much-needed repair money and also keep the church in the community's hearts and minds. 

Donations can be mailed to: OUMC, PO Box 278, Ocracoke, NC 27960. Please include "church repairs" in the memo line. 

Read about the 2018 celebration of OUMC's 75th birthday here



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