Sometimes, drinking is part of the solution. The Federal Emergency Management Agency may have denied Ocracoke disaster victims assistance, but Richmonders can help.
Forget Virginia Beach: When you ask locals where they spend their summer vacations, the answer is often the same: the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
While everyone has a favorite destination along the barrier islands, none has quite the devoted following of Ocracoke. Most of us wouldn’t recognize it right now, after a historic flood following Hurricane Dorian last month pushed waters from the Pamlico Sound into the village. Reaching as deep as 7 feet, the waters inundated homes and businesses, displacing roughly 400 people — nearly half the island’s population — from their homes. More than 400 homes were damaged or destroyed and estimates for rebuilding start at $26 million.
Sara Teaster worked as a server at the Roosevelt until August, when she got her dream job as a teacher at the 21st Century Learning Center afterschool program in Ocracoke and moved down to become part of the island community. Not long after her arrival, Dorian struck and her job was put on the back burner. But her heart was already committed to Ocracoke and now she’s one of many volunteers helping rebuild the community.
“It’s been an interesting time to be a new resident in a place of such turmoil, but even in the face of devastation, the villagers have been so welcoming and kind in helping me get settled,” she writes. “I’m lucky, my rental house didn’t flood, and my job, although delayed, will still happen. Many people on the island not only lost their homes, but their incomes as well.”
She also let everyone at the Roosevelt know just how bad things were.
“There’s a great need,” she writes. “Volunteer groups from all over have been helping tear out houses and feed people.” While volunteers continue to help island residents with basic daily functions – one group set up mobile showers, another does drop-off laundry services – those of us in Richmond can lend a hand by eating and drinking closer to home.
The Roosevelt’s owners Kendra Feather and Mark Herndon responded by creating Eat for Ocracoke, a fundraiser running through this Sunday, Oct. 20. Sit down to a meal at the Roosevelt and it will donate 15% of the proceeds from food and drink sales to the Outer Banks Disaster Relief Fund. The fund is managed by the Outer Banks Community Foundation and will be used to assist people and families affected by Dorian’s wrath. Every penny donated to the Outer Banks Disaster Relief will be used to help local disaster victims in need.
In the spirit of Outer Banks history, the Roosevelt’s bar manager Cary Carpenter created a drink for the cause and, in a nod to a ship commandeered by the pirate Blackbeard, dubbed it La Concorde. The color of the ocean on a summer afternoon, La Concorde features Plantation 3 Stars rum, Giffard bleu Curaçao, coconut cream, pineapple and lime, bitters, garnished with a skeleton head, a chunk of pineapple and a gummy shark.
As for Teaster, she’s hanging in there. Community members got together shortly after the storm to open a day care center. The school was so badly damaged that children missed a month of school before anyone came up with alternative solutions. She worked with other volunteers and teachers at the center to provide activities for the kids.
“We did some painting projects, making colorful shells and inspirational signs to place around the island to bring a bit of color and joy as people passed by,” she writes. “With the help of National Park Service rangers, we arranged a sea turtle nest excavation and beach cleanup day that was a really great experience.”
For Feather and the Roosevelt crew, being involved in the community has always been important, although the focus is usually East End groups or Church Hill schools.
“But I think seeing Sara persevere and still continue to pursue her mission down there is really heartwarming,” she says. “Most people would have given up, moved on and gone after their Plan B. But she's committed to Ocracoke and because we admire her so much, we’re committed to helping her and them.”
According to Teaster, the destruction is vast and the recovery process will be long.
“The beaches and the remoteness are beautiful beyond words, but it’s the people that I really fell in love with,” she writes, citing their strength and resiliency. “They still have square dances and everyone knows everyone’s name and in the darkest of hours for the community, their spirit has never shown so brightly.”
Already, the Roosevelt is in the beginning stages of organizing another fundraising event to aid the cause. This one will be with Outer Banks Distilling, who itself already has raised over $10,000 for Ocracoke relief. Stay tuned for details.
Eat for Ocracoke is through Oct. 20 at the Roosevelt, 623 N. 25 St.