A steady stream of people wound through the assembly hall of Pathway Church on N.C. 41 Sunday where tables were stacked high with clothes, food and cleaning supplies. Serving as a distribution center, pallets of food and supplies waited for those affected by Hurricane Florence.

“It’s been amazing how the communities have come together,” said Pathway Pastor Sam Sumner, who heads up the church with his wife, Brooks.

“We’ve probably had someone from almost every church in the area come to volunteer and work.”

The relief effort started small. Early last week Sam Sumner and another church member gathered up some supplies and set up a couple of tables in front of the church, but soon after the phones started ringing and the trucks started coming in.

The church has accepted two tractor trailer loads and dozens of truck loads from across the state and as far away as Texas, Indiana and Michigan. Monetary donations have come from nearly a dozen states.

“People have just been giving me money out in town. They’re giving me checks, cash, just constantly giving money,” Brooks Sumner, who serves as associate pastor of Pathway, said of local donations. “Tragedy has definitely brought us closer together.”

The center is run like a well-oiled machine. Those seeking supplies are checked in and their storm damages are noted and depending on what their needs are they’re given a cart or a basket to load up their supplies.

While many of those in line for supplies fought back tears, declining to speak about their emotional and draining experience with Florence, more than 5,000 people have been assisted since the center opened last Tuesday.

“It’s set up like a supermarket and they can just walk through and we usually have someone walk through with them so they know (what section) they’re headed to,” Sam Sumner said. “We try to give them enough to get through two or three days… At any given time there are 60 to 80 volunteers in here working.”

Emily Sandlin, who was forced from her home in Chinquapin by flood waters, said the experience at the center was humbling. Sandlin is also one of about 300 volunteers working at the center.

“We were in the same place with (Hurricane) Matthew and the water didn’t even come close to our house, so this whole ordeal has been completely different than what we’ve been through before,” Sandlin said. “Duplin County has been through a lot of division in the last few months and this has been very humbling to know that our community, even with all of our differences, is coming together as one to make sure that everybody that lives here is taken care of.”

Sandlin’s house has been declared uninhabitable and for now her family is just trying to piece things together the best they can, she said.

“It’s just a waiting game now,” she said. “It’ll probably be a couple of months.”

The center will remain open this week, but now that roadways are opening back up the church is also working to distribute supplies to other affected areas.

“Since we’ve done this a lot of other sites have been popping up and that’s an awesome thing to see,” Sumner said. “I’m awed by it. I’m just amazed at what people have been able to accomplish.”

Outside the church on Sunday the Alabama Elks Disaster Team were busy serving more than 1,000 hotdogs and 180 pounds of smoked meat.

The Elks are a nonprofit organization that started their relief efforts to feed communities last year following Hurricane Harvey. They arrived in Beulaville from Cullman, Alabama around 4 a.m. Sunday.

“It’s nonstop for us. It’s what we do,” Karri Willis.

Beulaville mayor Hutch Jones said the relief effort in the town has stretched into nearly a dozen surrounding communities.

“There are a lot of needs. It’s not a city or a town effort at this point,” he said. “It’s phenomenal. The community has stepped up, other communities have stepped up, there’s a huge effort for recovery right now and just getting people those basic needs.”

The storm isolated a lot of communities, including Beulaville, and Jones said at one point more than 100 first responders from the local, state and federal levels were stranded and housed at the Beulaville Volunteer Fire Department.

“We were able to turn our island into our own emergency operations center,” he said.

“I can honestly say there are people alive today that wouldn’t have been alive had we not been in the situation we were with the extra first responders and state agencies.”

Pathway will open again for Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the church, located at 275 N.C. 41 in Beulaville. Hours for the rest of the week will vary. For more information, call 910-298-4141 or visit the Pathway Church Facebook page.