DURHAM, N.C.-- Nikhil Pulimood and Michael Marsack of the Duke track and field team participated in the first ACC Service Trip to Wilmington, N.C., to help with hurricane relief efforts. The service trip, done in conjunction with Clemson University, the University of North Carolina and Virginia Tech, lasted three days from Friday, March 15-17. Hurricane Florence hit landfall on September 14 just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., as a Category 1 hurricane after reaching Category 4 at its peak intensity. The hurricane caused widespread flooding in North Carolina and had an impact as far inland as Durham, N.C., and caused road closures on I-40 and I-95. As members of the Wilmington community continue to recover, the 13 student-athletes from the four ACC Schools participating in the ACC Service Trip aided in the recovery efforts.
The service efforts began on Friday afternoon as student-athletes from UNC and Duke visited the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina – Wilmington Branch. The group received a quick overview of the services the food bank provides and how the branch is to be viable. The five student-athletes put together over 400 bags of canned food, fruit, juice boxes, and milk for families. Afterwards they were joined by student-athletes from Virginia Tech at the NC Diaper Bank to lend a hand in organizing the bank and making bags of wipes for families to use. On Friday evening with the entire group present, there was a leadership program on the difference between serving and fixing a problem as well as the difference of sympathy versus empathy.
Marsack stated, “Our work in Wilmington over this past weekend was the perfect opportunity to practice empathy and understanding towards others in a difficult situation. Doing so with the company of student-athletes from other ACC schools allowed me to experience the feelings of both people in need and those ready to serve.”
On Saturday, the service group was split into three groups with members from each school who worked at sites throughout the Wilmington Community. Student-athletes worked at their sites all day landscaping, removing flooring, and replacing roofing/dry wall. Each group departed their site at five in the afternoon and returned to the Harbor Church for dinner with Lead Pastor and Duke Divinity School Alumnus, Russ Nanney and members of the congregation.
They shared their experiences of living with the devastating effects of Hurricane Florence and how the community has banded together to get things done. The Red Cross stayed at the Harbor Church after the hurricane and over 100 families lived at the Harbor Church. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, over 4,255 step homes, 686 housing units, and 1.2 billion in aid has been given to NC residents through Hurricane Florence relief efforts.
Pulimood reflected on the service trip as, “a precious memory from my senior year and it is a testament to the opportunities that Duke Athletics has given me in my collegiate experience. I have been on service trips in faith based groups, but I found myself surprised by the level of fellowship and community that this trip cultivated between people of different faiths and beliefs amongst ‘rival’ Clemson, UNC, Virginia Tech, and Duke Athletes.”
This trip was made possible by the following volunteer coordinators: Shelia Bonhotel of NC Food Bank, Taylor Doyle of the NC Diaper Bank, and Ed Sundy of the United Methodist Committee of Relief.