Wilmington. A roaring tourist city during the summer months and a quiet little beach town during its off months. Though unknown to a lot of people, it holds a special place for many Carolinians. Especially those who live there and the ones who studied there. The quiet town also houses the University of North Carolina Wilmington. A smaller but well-populated university by the coast. Many of its attendees are locals, either of the area of Wilmington or North Carolina. It provides a home away from home for many, while for others it’s their one true home. 

This past weekend the city was the first of many coastal cities to be hit by Hurricane Florence. While the hurricane’s status went from a potential category five to a category one, it still managed to impact the city. The city is now currently isolated from the rest of the state.

That’s when the community stepped in.

Right before the hurricane began, an Instagram page popped up.

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We are We Wilm Rebuild. A UNCW and greater Wilmington NC Hurricane Florence rehabilitation project. To many of us, we call Wilmington our home, our school, and our happy place. We have become a part of this quaint little beach town and it has become a part of us. By now most have heard about the ‘hurricane of the century’ that will be making landfall in our city. This hurricane has displaced so many of us, will completely level our homes, and will leave us with dust of the things we couldn’t take with us during evacuation. We Wilm Rebuild. But we need help. We are a small group of students hoping to grow this organization to spawn volunteers and donations to directly impact our community. We need your help. #ilmstrong

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We Wilm Rebuild is an organization dedicated to restoring the community that was massively affected during the hurricane.

“I saw a lot of people in distress and without answers or organization. I wanted to help my community and I knew community needed someone to help facilitate that organization.” — Wes Porter, one of the founders of We Wilm Rebuild.

The organization blew up bigger than initially expected. Through a social media photo campaign, hundreds of people began to contribute and follow the cause. They gained over 1,000 followers in the first 24 hours. Now they are closer to 10,000 days following the storm. “The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive! I think it symbolizes how close-knit our community is.” According to Wes, the response goes to show how close the community really is. If anything, the organization will like to grow even more, both personally and community wise.

“I want to learn and grow with this organization. I have never been able to do something like this, especially to this scale. I hope to empower others to get involved and to do great things for themselves and others.”

The organization has over 10 donation drives planned throughout North Carolina which have been set up through volunteers acting as city managers to help set up donation drives.  With even more to come, the organizers are excited to continue the process. “I want the general public to play an important role in affecting change in our community, and for [us] to organize, facilitate and act as a resource for others to achieve their efforts.”

The organization also has a GoFundMe, where you can donate money towards donation efforts.

Along with We Wilm Rebuild, other students and members of the community have diverged their efforts into relief efforts. From student Carleigh Barbour creating artwork in exchange for donations for the UNCW Emergency Fund to Heather Cunningham donating her proceeds from her small business, Love Your Local Co. (selling stickers, hats, and more.) to We Wilm Rebuild.

The hurricane may have brought lots of damage but the spirit and drive of the community both university and locally has definitely brought a lot of hope and positive energy. For the city of Wilmington, young people are creating a newer bond towards the community. One that makes it more powerful and stronger than anything that can hurt it.

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