Both from the Dallas, Texas area, Char Richardson and Amanda Trask first met after an EF-4 tornado tore everything apart the day after Christmas in 2015. That’s when Char started a relief effort, a citizen’s patrol named Looter Booters, to help protect residents. From there, she met up with a variety of people involved in rescue and relief efforts for victims of disasters.
The two women left their Texas homes just after Hurricane Florence, heading to the NC State Fairgrounds in Raleigh to drop off supplies and set up a dog refuge staging area. The two women ended up moving towards Wilmington, planning to stay for four days to assist with rescue and recovery. Char had no idea that this was only the beginning of her adventures in North Carolina.
Within the first two days, Char linked up with the Universal Hovercraft Team to help with a horse rescue in Burgaw. Two horses were pulled out on the hovercraft, and the other five were brought to higher ground to keep their hooves out of water.
Meanwhile, Amanda was in Wilmington helping with other issues. The roads between Wilmington and Burgaw had become washed out by rising floodwaters, separating the two teammates. While Amanda had to return to Texas, the hovercraft team, grateful for the help they had received, purchased a flight back to Dallas for Char. At the time, she didn’t realize how long she would postpone her trip home.
“I had that flight that they booked for me to go back home,” began Char. “Incredible generosity! But I just kept pushing it forward because I kept having more opportunities to do good work. Now it turns out that I will probably just be here forever.”
While Char has no children, her dog, Mia, was waiting back in Texas. After realizing she would not be returning home on schedule, some friends stepped in to help Char. Triton Transportation Relief was able to put together a multi-state convoy of women living in different parts of the south. Volunteers handed the dog from state to state to reunite Mia with her owner here.
After the horse rescue, Char and others took a Jon boat out to rescue Burgaw residents from rooftops. Staying at a makeshift launch site on Hwy 53, she slept on an army cot for several days. There were multiple active search and rescue requests coming from the Cajun Navy Foundation Zello channel, and people trying desperately to contact loved ones.
Char used the channels to connect with people who had watercraft to help rescue people and deliver supplies. She used the Pender County Humane Society’s channel to deploy when animals were in need of rescue. There were also a few families who had decided to stay in their homes surrounded by floodwater. They needed food and water brought to them, so Char helped with that. She also encountered a disabled man who needed a ramp and constructed one from hurricane debris.
Since then, Char has been directing donations in the Whitestocking Road and Sand Hill communities, meeting folks from around the area and showing them where to get supplies. While the distribution site has been closed down for deliveries, they are now open three days a week for community pickup.
“Some people don’t understand why I would do this. There is a need here. Every single day there’s something that I could be doing that wouldn’t get done otherwise. That’s why I’m here,” said Char.
Char also organized some Trunk of Treat fun for the children of Burgaw, held Monday at Cape Fear Community College Burgaw Center. At the event, there were costumes for the children to choose from. Food was served, candy was distributed and horse and carriage rides brought smiles to the children’s faces.
Now Char has a pickup truck with a trailer that she can use 24/7. She will be completing her first interstate donation delivery Saturday. She plans to head to South Carolina to pick up tons of supplies, and bring them back to Burgaw.
With all the relief work still to be done, Char’s flight is now scheduled for December so she can go home for the holidays. However, she said that she won’t be gone for long. It will be a round trip flight.
“My favorite thing to say lately is, ‘Teamwork makes the dream work!’I know this was the catalyst I needed to change my whole life. If I could participate in something like this within 48 hours of arriving to a disaster zone, anything is possible,” said Char.
Boots on the ground volunteers are still desperately needed to help families rebuild their homes in North Carolina and Georgia. To volunteer, visit CrowdRelief.net. To help Char purchase Tyvek suits and other supplies for her team, visit paypal.me/RescueGypsies.