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Life after Hurricane Florence in the eyes of James Sprunt student Ginger Jenkins

Thankful. Blessed. Together. 

That’s how Ginger Jenkins, an accounting student at James Sprunt Community College feels as she prepares to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this year with her family.

“We will be going to my cousin’s house,” said Ginger. “It doesn’t feel quite like the holidays, but I’m going to try to be in the spirit for my children.”

With three daughters, one son, and her father all living under one roof, Ginger says she has a lot to be thankful for.

“We want to be thankful for what we have, for what we lost, and for where we are going to be,” said Ginger. “We’re all together and we are safe … our new home is a much smaller house, but we’re thankful that we have a place to stay and a place to call home.”

In September, Ginger and her family lost everything that they had during Hurricane Florence. Her home was a complete loss and has since been demolished. All that is left is the outline of where her house once stood.

“There are others who have lost just like we have, we have all shared a loss in this community,” said Ginger. “We just feel like we should be thankful for where we are at.”

Life is getting back to normal for Ginger and her kids, as they come from school. Courtesy of James Sprunt Community College

With this being the second flood Ginger has been through, she knew that when Hurricane Florence came through she would need to evacuate.

“Hurricane Matthew was a major disaster, in fact we were airlifted out, and this time I wanted to make sure we were out before it got really bad,” said Ginger.

Living about a mile from the Northeast Cape Fear River, Ginger did not think that the flood waters would reach as far back to her home, and she certainly did not expect the devastation that happened this time.

“We are not even on the river side,” said Ginger, as she looks around her property after her home had just been bulldozed down.

“The more we ripped out walls, the more we just knew this wasn’t going to work out,” said Ginger as she talks about her attempts in trying to save her home. “Demolition was the next step to do. I have had a lot of family to support me in this, so that’s been a good thing.”

“The cost to repair would be extremely more than just rebuilding a house and starting over again,” said Ginger. “There were holes in the floors from the water coming in, the middle section had already fell through, so it was easier to do it this way, even though it was heartbreaking.”

With help from her family, her church family, friends, and neighbors – she was able to get the home completely demolished and have everything she ever owned carried away by dump trucks.

“My kids did not understand what had really happened with the storm until they saw the house being torn down. It was like they realized, they used to have this or that, and now they don’t have those things.”

Those things being toys, electronics, clothes, school supplies, their beds and furniture.

Ginger is unsure if she will rebuild again on her family’s land, although she says “I have lived here all my life, this is home.”

For anyone who would like to help those impacted by the Hurricane, Ginger says it’s simple… “just put on some gloves and say, what would you like for me to do for you today … there are times when you just need someone to come and help you clean up for an hour or two.”

Air mattress and couch that the kids take turns sleeping on. Courtesy of James Sprunt Community College

With four children ranging from ages 11 to 16, Ginger has tried her best to move forward with a positive attitude.

“With the kids being able to go back to school, it has helped to bring back some normalcy,” said Ginger. “They were out for well over a month, and they were happy to go back. It seems like where our norm usually is, it has not been there, so we have had to come up with a new norm.”

Improvising and making due with what you have is key, Ginger says. They have put up air mattresses to create bedding in the living room for her children, who take turns sleeping on the couch.

“It is a hardship, but I’m willing to work through it,” said Ginger. “Renting is something I have not done in a very long time. We were fortunate enough in this place that I am renting that it came with a lot of appliances that I do not have to buy right now.”

With her home being destroyed, dealing with the daily stress of trying to rebuild her life and her home, as well as getting her kids back on a normal schedule, has not been easy. Keeping up with her studies at James Sprunt has been also been challenging.

“It is difficult to keep your mind on work, to keep up with all the work,” said Ginger. “I stay motivated knowing that I will graduate in May – I stay focused on that. … My plans are to clean up my property, graduate, keep working … and then hopefully I will be able to build my house back in a couple of years.”

Having worked in accounting for over 20 years, Ginger came back to school seeking to match up her experience with a degree, and she encourages others who may be in the same situation as her to stay in school and not be discouraged.

“The best thing for any student is to continue with their education no matter how hard it is.”

Even though Thanksgiving will be a bit different this year than in years past, Ginger is looking forward to moving past what they have lost, and putting everything in perspective.

“Every day it gets better. … It has been a hard transition for my kids seeing their house torn down and understanding you know, that we are not going back to our old house,” said Ginger.

“We are adjusting to what works, what doesn’t work. …. There are some days that you want to cry, some days that you smile. It’s hard to have fun, it’s hard to enjoy what we’ve got, but we have to enjoy where we are at, because in the end, we’ll have more.”

With Christmas just around the corner, Ginger is determined to try to make it one of the best holidays for her children, her father, and herself.

“Christmas is important for everyone, but being together is what matters the most. … We are going to have to downsize a lot from years past, with our priorities being focused on our needs such as replacing things we’ve lost.”

Ginger says that the love she has felt from her community, and the outpouring of support from her friends, and even strangers, has made this process easier.

“We can always pick up, no matter how hard it is, from where we are at, no matter what we have or don’t have, and start all over again,” said Ginger. “Those are my intentions, and to be better, and I hope this makes me and my family better.”

“This has made my faith stronger,” added Ginger. “I know God will provide, and right now, the biggest thing is that I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by James Sprunt Community College. It has been posted with the author’s permission.

Cheryl Hemric

Cheryl Hemric is the public information officer at Robeson Community College. Hemric has worked in the North Carolina Community College System, promoting student success, for over 20 years. She is a proud graduate of a community college, holding an associates degree in advertising and graphic design, and loves to share the story of how education can changes lives and give people hope. She received her bachelor’s degree from Liberty University and her master’s degree in marketing from Southern New Hampshire University.