Sep 9 2019

Jacksonville Daily News

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis dropped in for an informal visit to Pollocksville where he discussed reopening the town’s post office with Mayor Jay Bender and took a tour of The Filling Station, a faith-based food pantry in town.
The senator chatted with senior citizens who had gathered at the Filling Station, a pantry that made its mark by serving as one of the primary food and rescue stations for Jones County in the days following last September’s Hurricane Florence. While he asked questions and talked about recovery, he also spent time chatting more freely and personally, showing some senior citizens pictures of his granddaughter while discussing with Filling Station board president Mary Ann Leray the health benefits of his favorite vegetable, collards, and reminisced over picking blackberries to make his favorite dessert, blackberry cobbler, when he was a child.
Though not a native of North Carolina – he was born in Jacksonville, Florida – he said he has grown to love the Tar Heel State since his arrival here in the ’90s, “and you couldn’t drive me out now.”
Bender related some of Pollocksville’s struggles during Florence, noting that one of the town’s biggest problems was a lack of gas and the fact that it was cut off by flooding from much of the outside world.
Among buildings damaged and yet to be reopened was the city hall, located in an old train station building set up by the Trent River, and the city’s post office. “We met with the mayor,” he said, “and we’re talking about the need for the post office to reopen.”
Tillis noted that Jones County “dodged the bullet” with Hurricane Dorian, but is still dealing with recovery from Florence. “When you’re in Charlotte, or you’re in the mountains and you hear about a storm, a few weeks later you forget about it,” he said. “But the people in these communities are living with it every single day.”
He said money is out there to help with recovery, but admitted that it wasn’t getting out fast enough. “there’s almost a half a billion dollars that’s yet to be spent,” he said, “that needs to get out into the community and begin the rebuilding and also prepare for the next storm... we’re really emphasizing working with the governor, working with the county and towns to figure out the most efficient way to get the money into the communities as quickly as possible.
Tillis pointed out that, while Jones County came out well in Hurricane Dorian, other areas did not. Tillis was on his way to visit tornado damage when he agreed to swing into Pollocksville as well. “We had loss of life,” he said. “We had significant in damage on the Outer Banks. We’ve had damage from some seven tornadoes that his all over the eastern part of the state. We’re trying to track and gather what those needs are so we can get the emergency appropriation when we get back in session.”
Tillis encouraged residents to reach out to the government to help them work through the red tape of getting disaster relief, while encouraging local organizations to help residents in the same way. “One thing I’ve always emphasized, any time I go to areas where people gather is to make sure you’re always looking out for someone who needs help, with dealing with the federal government,” he said. “It’s a very intimidating task. We want to help. We do thousands of cases every year and we love finding out what the needs are and then expediting that process... We love finding out what the needs are and then expediting that process.”

Read the story HERE.