FAYETTEVILLE, NC – With intermittent phone and internet service, for a few days only occasional messages and brief conversations were possible with Rev. Alexander Papagikos, head priest of the Sts. Constantine and Helen of Fayetteville, NC and Presbytera Kelly Papagikos. It was enough to bring relief knowing that they and their parishioners were safe after the fury of Hurricane Florence passed.
They were fortunate not to have lost power and relieved that the worst fears of the authorities about wind damage did not materialize, but the parish buildings sustained some minor damage. The flooding remains a danger for hundreds of thousands in the region.
Promises Father and Presbytera Papagikos would tell more of the story of how the parish fared were conditional on phone service – few calls were getting through – and whether they could take a break from the incessant visits and calls to parishioners.
By September 18, Fr. Papagikos was able to take a phone call. “Thank God, everybody seems to be well. The people are all helping each other and Presbytera and I are doing our best,” he said.
He was also heartened by the daily calls he received from Metropolitan Alexios, asking how he and Presbytera and the members of the community were doing. Dan Christopoulos of IOCC, which is operating its hurricane relief activities out of Columbia, SC also called.
It’s a small parish with modest resources – the larger local churches and affiliated organizations have mobilized and are out in force – but one should never underestimate the power of a close-knit community. Many parishioners have roots in Evritania in Central Greece and are able to deduce one another’s needs. The elderly in the parish have friends and family nearby to look out for them.
After the winds calmed and the concern shifted to flooding and people being isolated and shaken by the ordeal, the gregarious Presbytera Kelly put out this message on social networking platforms:“Reminder to anyone that my house is a safe zone. Coffee can be on in minutes…I will always be available, even if we haven’t talked in a while. Text me, call me, message me, anything. I will be there. I am always a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Nothing is worse than being alone and going through things alone. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s not okay not to talk about it.”
Asked for more details about the storm’s aftermath, Papagikos said “What people who have not been through thisdon’t realize is that it is too soon to ask how everyone is doing. The recovery will continue for weeks or months. Until the water recedes and they go into their homes to assess the damage, we can’t say anything. Some may walk through their door and find they have literally lost everything, and that’s when they will need our assistance and support.”
The Papagikoses hunkered down in their home, buoyed but their faith and the prayers of friends and family, especially their four sons, Michael, Anthony, Nicholas, and Alex Jr. Only the latter lives in North Carolina. He was in Virginia when the storm and was still working on getting back into the state as of September 19.