Florence aftermath: Save the Children keeps shelter kids busy, parents sane

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Thousands of people are still being housed in shelters across our state and many like Tabitha Williams of Morehead City don’t know when they might be able to go home.

“It’s just devastation back home,” she told ABC11.

Williams and her four daughters, all younger than 8, left their coastal town as Hurricane Florence was barreling toward the Carolina coast.

They’ve been in shelters ever since and are now at one set up in UNC’s Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

Shelter living is taking its toll.

“Overwhelming, anxiety. We’re all just managing under one roof doing the best we can,” Williams said.

MORE: Full coverage of Hurricane Florence

Williams is learning what child experts have known for years – that shelter living is even tougher on children, according to a spokesperson for the Save the Children organization.

“When a disaster strikes, children are the most vulnerable,” said Sarah Thompson who is working for Save the Children at the shelter in Chapel Hill. She added, “They don’t have the coping mechanisms that we do as adults to be able to deal with what’s going on. They need structure. They need support.”

So Save the Children offers activities for kids at shelters and has been doing so since tens of thousands of youngsters ended up in shelters for weeks on end after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

Shannon Dawson, who was evacuated from New Bern, is grateful her son has something to do.

“I think it’s helpful for him because he gets to be around other kids and other people,” she said.

Williams’ oldest daughter, Georgia, who is 7, also likes the activities.

With a big smile, she told ABC11, “We play with the toy party set and we play with the doctor set and we draw.”

And her mom couldn’t be happier with the reaction of her children, including her toddler twins.

“They love it. They love it. Actually as a matter of fact, yesterday they came back with a whole bunch of little arts and crafts and goodies and things of that nature. And they just have the best time when they go over there. It’s wonderful. It’s honestly a wonderful organization. I’m thankful to have that in my life right now,” she said.

And helping shelter kids helps all of us, according to Save the Children’s spokesperson

“Children are our future. And so investing now in helping them cope and recover is really going to make the long-term impact better for the community,” Thompson said.

If you’d like to help support Save the Children’s mission you can donate on their website.

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