Raleigh’s Jedidiah Gant witnessed Hurricane Matthew’s devastating effects on eastern North Carolina firsthand.
The hurricane unexpectedly wreaked havoc along the state’s eastern region the weekend of Oct. 8. Gant’s children were staying in Lumberton with their grandparents over the weekend while his wife was out of town for a wedding and he stayed behind in Raleigh to volunteer at a nonprofit benefit.
As the storm blindsided the state and the waters began to rise, Gant found himself living many parents’ worst nightmare as he raced against time to rescue his children from one of the area’s hardest hit communities.
Gant and his wife, who’d safely returned from the wedding, spent hours that weekend attempting to reach their children in his flood ravaged hometown. The Robeson County community was so hard hit that it took them days to reach their children, one of whom has special medical needs.
Gant recalls the harrowing feeling of being unable to reach his children. “I got out on the side of the road and sat down trying to figure out how I was going to rescue my children from a situation where they didn’t have water, didn’t have power and my parents neighborhood was flooding,” he said. “It was one of the worst feelings.”
Eventually, they were able to reach their children and reunite their family in the middle of the devastation. “We could see the damage everywhere,” Gant said. “But we got them out after two long days of driving and crying.”
As the weekend’s events unfolded, the Gant family received an outpouring of support from friends, family and loved ones that inspired action.
“It gave me the idea that there were people who weren’t directly affected by the storm but could feel the urgency of the need and wanted to give,” Gant said. “That gave me the idea to reach out to a few people and see if they would donate.”
Reach out he did. “Asking one person to give and hearing them say yes gave me the confidence to reach out to the next person,” Gant said. “Eventually, people started reaching out to me.”
Gant’s asks made a difference. He spent much of the week following the hurricane leveraging his network, influence and marketing skills to organize a grassroots community philanthropy campaign, dubbed “Rally + Relief.” The effort spanned across the City of Raleigh and the greater Triangle area.
Rally + Relief quickly came to life the weekend following the hurricane. Businesses across the region donated percentages of their sales to the North Carolina Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and some even went as far as to directly donate personal funds.
Rally + Relief resulted in more than $30,000 raised for the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund.
These gifts have been an important part of funding from generous donors across the state and country that have come together to support eastern North Carolina during the recovery from Hurricane Matthew.
Gant chose to direct his efforts to the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund because of his commitment to the community. “I reached out to a really good friend of mine who is involved in the nonprofit world and asked for her highest recommendation,” he said. “She recommended NCCF because the Disaster Relief Fund will directly benefit nonprofits on the ground in the communities affected. I wanted to give directly to the community and keep the donations in the state.”
Gant’s experience underscores the importance of the work community foundations do, especially in moments of crisis and disaster.
“Every aspect of the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund showcases why community foundations matter,” said Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, NCCF CEO. “Our statewide reach, network of affiliates, grantmaking expertise, grassroots connections and much more come together to allow us to support this fund to help our state during our most trying times.”
Every dollar raised for the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund goes directly to nonprofits in communities impacted. No money is used to cover the Foundation’s administrative expenses.
As Gant discovered firsthand, in those moments of need, North Carolinians from every walk of life respond with generosity.
“You can do things by yourself, but without a community, you can only do so much,” Gant said. “Even through I’m the person who organized this, I couldn’t have done anything without the community. Everyone truly came together.”
North Carolinians did come together. The NCCF Disaster Relief Fund has already awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars to the communities across the eastern half of the state hardest hit by the hurricane.
“We’re incredibly proud of what the NCCF Disaster Relief Fund is able to do for our state,” said Tolle Whiteside. “When the hurricane hit many of us put everything else down and focused on doing everything we could to help our neighbors. It’s been a labor of love.”
Taking the time to focus on what truly matters is a theme that extends throughout the recovery and response to Hurricane Matthew. For Gant, it’s one of his most important lessons learned. “Sometimes you’ve got to drop the stuff you’re working on and put your efforts towards something more immediate than your own needs,” he said. “There’s always someone in a more dire situation than you. If you feel the need to make a difference, stop and do something.”