Student snapshot

Michael Hinson

Watching from his home in Wake Forest, ECU freshman Michael Hinson wasn’t satisfied with the Hurricane Florence relief efforts he saw online. So he and some friends decided to start their own relief drive.

What was the response?

Set up in an abandoned Food Lion parking lot, the relief drive accepted donations from Sept. 17-19. At first they trickled in, but after getting the word out on social media, the team filled a 30-foot race car trailer and a second 15-foot trailer by lunchtime on the first day. “Cars lined the parking lot,” Hinson said. In total, the relief drive brought in nearly 7,000 water bottles, 982 cans of meat, fruit and vegetables, and 1,152 rolls of toilet paper, among other supplies.

With all the major roads into Wilmington closed, his coorganizer and UNC Wilmington student Lindsay Rifenberg connected with Operation Airdrop, the Texas-based charity organization founded in 2017 in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Operation Airdrop flew the team’s donations to Wilmington, Lumberton and other eastern North Carolina towns, including New Bern and Elizabethtown.

An ongoing project

Carolina strong window stickersNow, Hinson is selling “Carolina Strong” stickers for $5 each through social media, with proceeds going to first responder groups. “I hope to bring in another $10,000 in donations,” Hinson said. “I know that’s a small drop in the bucket, but if I can turn Carolina Strong into a real organization and take it statewide, it could become something bigger. We could really make an impact when the next natural disaster strikes.”

Carolina Strong stickers can be purchased on Instagram at @CarolinaStrong18.