Salvation Army of Wake County warehouse manager William Hunter knows a thing or two about experiencing hard times and working hard. He served in the United States Marines for 24 years. While in the corps he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan on two separate occasions from 1980-81 and 1985-86. Both times, typhoons brought devastation to Okinawa.
When William was five years old, he lost his family – mother, father, sister and bother – in a car accident. He was raised by his father’s parents and it was through church ministries that he learned the meaning of giving.
Trying times are no stranger to William.
So when Hurricane Irma hit Florida a few weeks ago and The Salvation Army of Wake County – along with nine other Salvation Army’s in North Carolina – was asked to send its mobile feeding (canteen) unit along with four volunteers – Michelle Isidore, Sarah Ruiz and Jean Temple from SAWC – on a two-week mission to Florida, William, who was on vacation at the time, was the first to sign up.
“It is a calling for me,” said William. “I enjoy the work, the bonding and comradery with other people.”
It was his experiences during Hurricane Matthew around the same time last year and his training in the Marine Corps that prepared him for his current deployment in Florida.
When SAWC area commander Major Stephen Long asked William to man the canteen during Hurricane Matthew, William was eager to go. Dealing with Matthew he recalls was challenging. He had to deal with water levels the likes he had never seen before while deployed in Goldsboro for two weeks. He also operated the canteen on day trips in Fayetteville, Lumberton, and Red Springs. People had been without power for at least a week. Food was scarce. William recalls serving a particular family. As the family walked away, a little boy let go of his mother’s hand and came running up to William, saying repeatedly, “Thank you mister.”
That moment touched William.
“I decided right at that time that if there was ever a need I would want to go out,” he said. “Even though we may have some trying times while we are out, no matter what we may be going through, people in this situation have it twice as bad.”
William worked extremely hard to service people during Matthew. He still holds the record for the most meals served to people in one day, when he served 1,320 meals.
“They are still talking about that record,” William said proudly.
William and The Salvation Army of Wake County staff is stationed in Keystone, FL and sometimes drive almost two hours a day to feed people. Their day starts at 8 a.m. and sometimes does not end until 11 p.m. Monday, the staff fed 500 people in Fernando Beach. Lunch and dinner is served in what is called a “clamshell tray.” William and the staff prepare a typical lunch, which consists of hotdogs/hamburgers, baked beans, fruit cup, chips and a cookie. Monday’s dinner consisted of chicken and dumplings, green beans, a roll, dessert and a bottle of water. Although the need for meals is becoming less, as power is beginning to be restored and schools are opening back up, William and the staff provide spiritual relief. They are also handing out cleaning supplies.
William first became involved with The Salvation Army of Wake County nine years ago when his pressure washing business was slowed down by a drought. He went through a temp agency for employment with SAWC. The hiring manager at the time, Alice Delamar was so impressed with the way he worked, she offered him a fulltime job. William fell in love with The Salvation Army, so much so that while he was a fulltime employee he still volunteered with the soup line and whatever else was needed.
He never did get that pressure washing business going again.
“No matter what we do all the glory goes to God who gave us the strength and power,” said William. “All glory goes to him.”