While North Carolina residents continue to feel the effects of Hurricane Florence, four University of North Carolina at Wilmington students have harnessed the power of social media to help rebuild Wilmington in the wake of the storm.
The students are the founders of We Wilm Rebuild, a social media-based organization connecting with communities throughout the Carolinas to help rehabilitate Wilmington.
Since its creation a few days ago, We Wilm Rebuild has collected nearly $3,500 in donations on GoFundMe pages. They now have more than 20 locations for donating supplies across North and South Carolina, and the number is growing.
“We are humbled and thrilled,” UNC-W senior Jasmine Vanscoy said. “It really just took on a life of its own.”
After evacuating to Greensboro last week, Vanscoy began posting on social media, urging students to bring supplies back to Wilmington when they return. Other Facebook users began sharing her posts and spreading the word. Vanscoy's friend, UNC-W student Wes Porter, reached out to her with the idea of creating an organization to help those in need.
Vanscoy and Porter were then joined by Valentina Pantani of UNC-W and Cammi Urbach of Cape Fear Community College, and together they created We Wilm Rebuild.
The organization currently operates solely on Instagram and Facebook, spreading the word through social media posts and responding to potential organizers through direct messaging. The administrators work from their homes and local restaurants, coordinating with volunteers across the state.
Julia Maguire, a UNC-CH senior from Wilmington, has partnered with We Wilm Rebuild on UNC-CH’s campus. They are seeking non-perishable food items, toiletries and other items. The main collection location is housed at UNC’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority at 302 Pittsboro St.
All Panhellenic sororities received We Wilm Rebuild donation boxes, as well, that will be collected this Sunday.
“In Chapel Hill, it didn’t hit us very terribly, but a lot of people prepared for it,” Maguire said. “Even if everyone donated two bottles of water or a few new toothbrushes, it will all really add up.”
At the Apex, N.C. location alone, We Wilm Rebuild has collected two U-Haul trucks worth of supplies to bring to Wilmington residents. As the group receives supplies across its locations, they have been renting storage spaces and even air-dropping supplies into Wilmington.
“We don’t care if they’re associated with We Wilm Rebuild at this point,” Vanscoy said. “People need resources.”
The operations of the organization are currently being funded by Technology for The Future, an organization that provides technology to those in need. Vanscoy hopes We Wilm Rebuild will eventually be able to provide technology to children affected by the hurricane.
The City of Wilmington has also employed social media to communicate with residents and alert them of safety notices. The city has continued to update residents on road and safety conditions, urging residents to remain in their evacuated locations.
According to the city’s Twitter, as of Tuesday, Sept. 18, there are no safe or reliable routes for the public to travel to or from Wilmington, a result of about 1,000 road closures and persistent threats of floods.
UNC-W has cancelled classes throughout the entire academic week, with no indication that they will resume classes by Monday, Sept. 24.
Some of Vanscoy’s friends stayed in Wilmington during the storm, and many faced flooding and power outages, with the worst of the damage including completely submerged homes and buildings. Still, she is extremely impressed with the support the communities in North Carolina have rallied.
“We’re coordinating the efforts according to what the community needs,” Vanscoy said. “We would be nothing without them and nothing without the support they’ve given.”
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