Six months after Hurricane Dorian, volunteer kitchen on Ocracoke Island serves its last meal

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— Six months after Hurricane slammed Ocracoke Island, there’s a bittersweet sign of progress.

A volunteer kitchen served its last free lunch on Tuesday.

Jason Wells started Ocracoke Strong Kitchen soon after Dorian hit in September, serving free lunches to full-time residents of Ocracoke. All of it was paid for with private donations.

“We probably got $20,000, all told,” Wells said.

Serving food is his forte: He owns Jason’s Restaurant.

Dorian made a meal of the restaurant, gutting it.

He could still feed his neighbors, though.

“Some people busted their butts all day working on their house, and it was nice to grab a meal and go back to work instead of having to find something to eat,” Wells said.

Recovery still a struggle after Dorian on Ocracoke

Celeste Brooks, the village postmaster, said volunteering at the kitchen has been “a godsend.”

“This has been my saving grace of sanity,” Brooks said.

Her house flooded in the hurricane. She hopes to move back in by mid-March.

“It’s fingers crossed,” she said.

Now, as North Carolina Highway 57 is being put back together and fewer islanders are coming in for meals, Wells said he needs to focus on Jason’s Restaurant.

“It’s time for me to start concentrating on that because I hope to be back open in two months,” he said.

“I feel like every day is better than the one before,” he added. “Everybody is making baby steps.”

Closing the kitchen doesn’t mean Ocracoke is open for business as usual.

“It’s not going to be the same Ocracoke that they’re used to,” Wells said. “I hope people understand that. It’s a work in progress.”

A portion of the money leftover from the kitchen will go to the island’s food pantry and to a church fund to help in the next emergency.