MECHANICSBURG, Pa. - As people in the Carolinas are bracing for Hurricane Florence to make landfall, people in Central Pennsylvania are preparing to help them. Volunteers at Mission Central are busy getting items ready to send to areas impacted by Florence.
Inside Mission Central in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, hygiene kits are boxed up and cleaning supply buckets are closed. Thousands of these supplies will sit inside Mission Central until they are shipped out to disaster relief areas.
"Usually the first-responders will go in and do that assessment and rescue phase," said Adam Hoover, Mission Central Director of Development. "Then they'll report back to us and start making that request."
In response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017, Mission Central sent out more than 11,000 cleaning buckets and more than 40,000 hygiene kits. Founded in 2002, the organization has been there to help in disaster response and this time around will be no different.
"We want to be there to help anyone who has a need," said Hoover. "Whether it's just cleaning their homes or giving them new supplies, anything we can do to help."
Making what Mission Central does possible are more than 8,000 volunteers. Helen Nylund has been a volunteer with the organization since they opened 16 years ago. She travels 2 1/2 hours roundtrip to be able to help. Wednesday, she was packing up hygiene kits to be shipped to areas devastated by Hurricane Florence.
"[I do this] to be a little bit of a part of something much bigger," said Nylund.
Like Nylund, there are many more volunteers who have spent more than a decade helping Mission Central. In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, George Elliot, a recently retired teacher, helped the organization by packing up cleaning buckets much like he was Wednesday.
"I wouldn't say doing this is fun," said Elliot. "But it's absolutely necessary to help the thousands and thousands of people Florence is going to be hitting."
Not only does Elliot help with pre-disaster relief efforts, he also goes to these hard hit areas to help clean up and rebuild. Through the Lend a Hand organization in Camp Hill, Elliot was sent to go to Princeville, North Carolina to help them continue to rebuild after being hit by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Now, the town is set to be hit by Hurricane Florence.
"Don't know if we're going to make that trip and if we do, I doubt rebuilding is what we'll do," said Elliot. "We'll more than likely help them muck out some of the homes down there again."
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is urging people who want to help those hit by Hurricane Florence to make sure they are donating to reliable and trusted organizations. For more information on Mission Central and items to donate, click here. Fore more information on the Lend a Hand organization, click here.