COLERAIN – When storm clouds gather, there’s always the hope for sunshine to follow.
A small, but generous, ray of that brilliant light did shine here Friday morning.
The Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources Inc., donated $25,000 to the Red Cross Chapter serving Bertie County in an effort to help families affected by tornadoes that struck the local area on April 16.
“The families and business owners here are our friends and neighbors as well as our customers. We want to be there for them in this difficult time,” said Rodney Blevins, Dominion’s vice president of Distribution Operations.
For Blevins, he’s unfortunately seen the aftermath of one too many weather-related disasters. On the flip side of that sad fact, he has also seen the positives generated by public-private partnerships answering the call during a crisis.
“The local emergency responders – from the EMT’s on the ground, the sheriff’s department, fire departments, North Carolina DOT, the Red Cross – we work much more closely with these organizations than we did a dozen years ago,” Blevins said. “We can all be proud of what we’ve accomplished here for the citizens.”
From a company standpoint, Blevins said Dominion stands in a support role for the areas and the communities they serve.
“This is so much bigger than just power grid restoration,” he noted. “Getting the power back on is just one small part of having some sense of normalcy return to the lives of those affected by weather-related disasters. I hope we did our job well following the tragic events that unfolded here in Bertie County on April 16.”
Blevins said the reason Dominion reacted the way they did following the storm – from the manpower on the ground to re-install electrical service to Friday’s check presentation – was that the company’s employees live and work in the affected communities.
“Our employees are part of these communities,” he noted. “I’m no more prouder of the company I work for than when I see our employees, on their own time, come to a community to do something very extraordinary.”
Blevins was making reference to Dominion employee Josh Gray of Elizabeth City. On Good Friday (April 22), Gray and his wife dressed as the Easter Bunny and delivered baskets to Bertie County youngsters whose lives were literally turned upside-down on April 16.
“It was all about the kids,” Gray said, himself a father.
The check presentation to the American Red Cross was one that also made Blevins proud of his company.
“I’m absolutely certain that this money will go to good use in this area,” Blevins said. “The Red Cross is such a wonderful volunteer organization and they are to be commended for their work here in Bertie County and other areas affected by the April 16th tornadoes.”
“We are extremely grateful of this donation; we’ll continue to be in Bertie County for as long as it takes,” said Summer Woodard, representing the Red Cross regional office in Greenville.
Woodard said the Red Cross, with volunteers in every county, was able to deploy aid in an expedite manner to the tornado survivors in both Bertie and Hertford counties.
“They stepped right in and handled things until we were able to send more manpower that way,” Woodard said, adding that the organization eventually sent state and national response teams to the two counties. “The hours of training for disasters such as the one here really paid off.”
The Red Cross was able to provide food, clothing, shelter, counseling and other assistance to people affected by the storms. Locally, Woodard said that as many as 80 Red Cross volunteers answered the call for help, some coming from as far away as Indiana and Ohio. Due to the tornado outbreak across North Carolina on April 16, Woodard said Red Cross volunteers numbered in excess of 300.
Woodard said the total relief effort expended by the Red Cross to storm damaged areas from Bertie County down to Onslow County exceeded $5 million.
“Our hardest hit counties were Bertie, Greene and Onslow,” she said. “This donation from Dominion will definitely help our cause.”
District 5 North Carolina House of Representative member Annie Mobley of Ahoskie said she was pleased to see a unified effort between different agencies come together so quickly to provide aid, comfort and resources for the local survivors of the tornado.
“Some were here at sun-up that Sunday morning,” Rep. Mobley said. “Things came together to help make these affected communities whole again and I want to thank Dominion for their generosity to the Red Cross.”
Bertie Emergency Management Director Rickey Freeman also offered words of thanks to Dominion Power, the Red Cross and other agencies for quickly responding to the county’s needs.
The Dominion Foundation also made a $50,000 donation to the American Red Cross to benefit Gloucester, Middlesex and Isle of Wight counties and the city of Williamsburg in Virginia. Each of those areas was also affected by the April 16 tornadoes.