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Earlier this week, I wrote an Instagram post about my reaction to the hurricane that ravaged the Carolinas. Even after that post, however, I felt like I still hadn’t been adequately heard and neither have those that are currently rebuilding from the devastation Hurricane Florence inflicted upon them. So I asked myself how exactly I could help, even if we are no longer living in eastern North Carolina…enter the print shop! I have been privileged enough to be able to explore the Carolinas’ coasts the last three years and wanted to share some of that pre-Florence beauty with you all. I am hoping that you all can find it in the goodness of your hearts to purchase a digital image, a print, or a canvas to support the victims that suffered loss and tragedy due to the most recent natural disaster. I am donating 50% of all proceeds from the Ali Rae Haney Productions Print Shop from now until the end of the year to the Foundation for the Carolinas, which is helping with hurricane relief.
Now let me give you a little background on our time in coastal Carolina. When we moved down to Sneads Ferry, a small shrimping town right on the water, I had no idea that I would grow to consider this place my home…it was supposed to be a stepping stone for us, a stop on our Marine Corps tour. We purchased our home while I was finishing my graduate degree to become a high school English teacher. I completed my student teaching at Wilmington Christian Academy, then took the spring to apply for jobs while I worked at a small coffee shop in Surf City called The Daily Grind. The summer season was crazy, as promised by the owner of the shop, but I actually enjoyed getting up at 4am and making donuts every morning. Call me crazy, but there is nothing more peaceful than watching the sunrise and hearing the waves hit the beach with no one else around and highly caffeinated beverage in hand. Thankfully, TDG did not experience any major destruction during Florence and has already re-opened both of their locations (one on the island, one just off the island), albeit one with limited hours and supplies. It’s the mission of Jeremy and Tracey Shugarts, however, to keep the caffeine on the island flowing, and they take their job very seriously!
Goodies at The Daily Grind – Surf City, NC
At the end of that summer, I accepted a position as an English teacher/assistant cross country coach/assistant soccer coach at White Oak High School in Jacksonville. Caleb, my husband, deployed for the first time at the beginning the school year, so it was a rough year for us overall. Any teacher will tell you that the first year of teaching is the hardest. With another major life event happening simultaneously, unfortunately my first year was no exception to the rule. That year was [over]filled with growth, and I decided at the end of the year, that teaching wasn’t actually for me. Despite that, White Oak holds a special place in my heart. I gained a ton of insight into the teenage psyche, a whole year’s worth of lesson plans on British literature, numerous articles of green and gold clothing, and a best friend, Stacy (more on her in a moment). White Oak was also blessed with a principal with amazing communication skills that keeps everyone informed about daily, weekly, and monthly events. During a natural disaster, those communication skills did not deviate. He was at the school in the eye of the hurricane, videotaping footage of the damage the school had undergone. You can find that footage here. Even though I had only spent one year here, like I said, it was a huge year for us, so it really hit me in the gut when I saw this. What would happen to the students? To the teachers? Where would they go? How long would they be displaced? White Oak is one of 43 public schools in Onslow County…what damage did the other schools suffer? My mind has been reeling with questions ever since I saw that video last Friday.
2016-2017 School Year at White Oak High School – Jacksonville, NC
Now, back to my bestie—Ms. Stacy Freshcorn. She was the English department head and a co-XC coach with me during my White Oak year. Stacy showed me the green and gold ways, but she too has since moved on to a different scene. Now an assistant principal at James Kenan High School in Duplin County, her school has suffered major loss as well. While the school is not as structurally depleted as White Oak, they have lost five students during Hurricane Florence due to flooding. For a school with less than 700 students, this is a gross loss that affects everyone in the school. As a former teacher, I cannot imagine what it is like to return to school with one desk empty that used to be filled…much less five desks empty… Please keep this specific community in your prayers as they do their best to grieve, heal, and repair.
Returning to my timeline, this brings me to last summer after I officially turned in my resignation to Onslow County. I sat there thinking…what’s next? Well, turns out, photography was next. I started my business, Ali Rae Haney Photography, which grew into Ali Rae Haney Productions when I realized my talents ranged past that of photography and into web and graphic design as well. Starting a business though…let me tell you, that is no joke! My degrees are in English and Secondary Education, not photography and business! It has been a year of learning tax laws, licensing, and ya know, photography. While starting this business, I needed something else to generate income and also get me out of the house so that I wasn’t staring at a computer 100% of the day. So I applied for a part-time serving job at a local restaurant, Outriggers 21.
It really is so funny to me how something I think will be insignificant in my life turns out to be wildly impactful. Outriggers 21 is one of those things. OR21 is owned by the Mitchells, a family that is local to Sneads Ferry. They own other businesses in the area, C.M. Mitchell Construction and Mitchell Seafood being the main two. One of my first experiences at OR21 was at Thanksgiving when they opened their doors to all of Sneads Ferry and hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner to any and all residents. It was a huge success. We served elderly who had no family visiting; we served those that weren’t able to afford a meal on their own; we served Marines who weren’t able to spend the holiday with their families. Overall, it warmed the hearts of all of Sneads Ferry. Throughout this hurricane, their giving did not stop. They were low on supplies and cut off from the world outside of Onslow County due to flooded roads, but as soon as they had electricity, they opened their doors to serve the linemen and women free of charge. Days passed where they kept those that were giving back to our community fed and energized. While part of their family was in the kitchen working with limited staff, the other part of their family was using their equipment from the construction company to clear and repair roads, so that Sneads Ferrians and Topsailians could navigate their town safely. Since the storm ended, they have been healing their community from the inside out.
Outriggers 21 – Sneads Ferry, NC
When people say to us, “You got out just in time,” or “I’m so thankful you’re in Virginia and not in North Carolina,” it brings up mixed emotions. Yes, we lived in eastern North Carolina for only three years, but we made it our home. We explored from New Bern and Atlantic Beach all the way down to Charleston, South Carolina. The first house we bought, our “starter home,” is in Sneads Ferry…that place “between Jacksonville and Wilmington” that the news never really seemed to mention. So yes, while we were physically out of the area at the time Hurricane Florence hit, my heart was with everyone and everything I left behind—my friends, my house, my school, my beloved beaches and coffee shops and docks and piers and restaurants (and even gas stations, surprisingly). We were blessed enough for our home to remain intact with only a few trees and tree limbs down (see images below), but many residents of eastern North Carolina were not so lucky. Homes are gone. Businesses are gone. Boats are gone. Sand dunes are gone. It breaks my heart that this seems like a fleeting event that the media no longer deems television-worthy when people that I know, that I love and care about (Stacy and my sister-in-law for starters), still cannot yet return to their homes to start the repair process due to flooding roads. That you don’t hear about on television.
Our home in Sneads Ferry, NC
Other damage in Sneads Ferry area
Now it is time for me to help re-grow the place that helped me grow so much in the last three years. The images in this gallery are from downtown New Bern, Fort Macon/Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville, Sneads Ferry, Topsail Island, Surf City, Wilmington, and Charleston, all of which were affected by Hurricane Florence. Some of the places in this album no longer exist or will not look the same once rebuilt. If you live in these areas, used to live in these areas, vacation in these areas, or just want to perform an act of good will, please consider purchasing a print, digital image, canvas, or metal art from my print shop. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Foundation for the Carolinas that will be donated specifically to Hurricane Florence Relief. Do this for the small town communities that are rebuilding even after the cameras leave. Do this for White Oak. Do this for the five students who aren’t going back to James Kenan High. Do this for the Mitchells. Do this for me.
Thank you for your time and attention. I pray that each and every eye that reads this message never has to experience what some have experienced in the wake of Hurricane Florence. God bless.
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