NEW BERN, N.C. — A supermodel and volunteers from her non-profit spent months helping in New Bern after Florence.
In fact, volunteers from All Hands and Hearts - Smart Response are still there working.
So far, they’ve helped repair 170 homes, in most cases starting from scratch to help hurricane survivors get back into their homes.
Christy Dixon Strickland finally had hope.
“You can't ever have enough hugs.”
That hope came from a stranger, a group of strangers really.
“It's also overwhelming 'cause of all the support we’ve gotten from you guys. You can't express it."
Strickland, her husband, and two kids lost everything when Florence came through New Bern last September.
We were there a few months ago when they were trying to move in with her mom, in the home Christy grew up in.
“My dad is deceased; he literally built this house.”
But it, too, flooded and needed a lot of work
“It's exciting you can finally know there’s gonna be an end and a home again – that’s exciting.”
Petra Nemcova runs All Hands and Hearts - Smart Response, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that helps rebuild communities around the world after disaster strikes.
An international model, Nemcova started the work almost 15 years ago after she survived the 2004 tsunami that wiped out parts of the Indonesian coast.
“I was in the tsunami and very blessed to survive and my partner passed away. I was hanging on to a palm tree. I was stuck with my pelvis broken in four places and the debris was all around me and hearing children screaming for help, and I was not able to go and help them because the debris was everywhere.”
“And after half an hour you don’t hear them anymore and you knew they couldn’t hold on anymore. And that realization that I had no choice to help them has been a huge driver because today I have a choice. We have a choice to help others in need.”
Her fiancé died in the tsunami. Nemcova has dedicated her life since then to helping. The goal of All Hands and Hearts is to stay on scene long after the first responders are gone, to stay as long as there’s a need.
“There are so many children and families slipping through the cracks. They are forgotten after first responders are leaving.”
“It’s really opened my eyes. Without them I don’t know where we would be I felt like we were stuck,” Strickland says.
“It’s been an incredible journey to see how much unconditional love there is in the world. A lot more than we see every day, but it is there.”