ECSU Aids Coast Guard Families in Hurricane Aftermath

Coast Guard evacuees

When the Coast Guard and their families needed help, Elizabeth City State University was standing by.

As Hurricane Maria pounded the island of Puerto Rico several days ago, many people understood that the U.S. Coast Guard was prepared for the aftermath. But in the aftermath of the Category 4 storm, their spouses and children were stranded on the Caribbean island territory, at least until now, when the Coast Guard began bringing them stateside, to Elizabeth City.

And the people of ECSU were here to help in any way they could.

“The willingness and readiness of the University to help out was phenomenal,” said Cmdr. Warren Judge, the executive officer at Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City, and an ECSU graduate.

Judge said families of Coast Guard service members had taken shelter on the island, during the storm. However, in the wake of the devastating hurricane, like so many living on Puerto Rico, their homes had been demolished, and water, food, fuel, and communications had been cut off due to the historic storm.

Judge says on Friday, Sept. 22, 58 family members arrived in Elizabeth City, with the Coast Guard anticipating that more would follow them. The families have been housed at a local hotel, but other options for their future exist in Elizabeth City.

“We’re not sure if there will be more evacuees,” said Judge. “That’s the question mark part. They may call us and say we are bringing more to the area. So what we would like to do is be prepared for anything.”

Base Elizabeth City commander, Cmdr. Randy Meador, and Judge, began working with not only ECSU, but also the City of Elizabeth City, to help bring the Coast Guard families home, and give them shelter while they wait for either transport elsewhere, or options outside of being temporarily housed at a local hotel.

Judge, coordinating with ECSU Chancellor Thomas Conway, says one option is for the families to have temporary housing on campus. In the interim, however, ECSU has made its large bus available to transport all of the families staying in town.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard base, in conjunction with the Chief Petty Officers Club, and the Spouses Club, held a family barbecue. That’s where ECSU came in handy.

The large bus the University uses to transport students was pulled out and taken to the hotel, where the families were picked up and delivered to the Coast Guard base. Judge says the generosity of ECSU was then extended by the bus driver, campus security officer Kavin Harris.

“He was great with the families,” said Judge.

Harris, said Judge, stayed with the families, made them feel welcome, and played with the children during the barbecue.

“He really ensured that everybody felt at home,” said Judge.

Elizabeth City State University and the Coast Guard have worked together in the past and most recently when the two signed a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at working toward providing higher education options for enlisted men and women. The opportunity to reach out to the Coast Guard members and their families is an extension of that bond between the two local institutions.

Chancellor Conway has made it clear that ECSU is here for the U.S. Coast Guard, in every way possible.

“When we needed help, the University was, ‘yes, we are here for you, Coast Guard,’” said Judge.