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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Hurricane Florence, Seven-Year-Old Ellie, and a Box of Books

Ellie is seven years old and an award-winning reader. Like her mother, she has loved books ever since kindergarten.  And Hurricane Florence destroyed all her books.

Ellie and her family live in New Bern, North Carolina: mom Ashley, dad Chris, and siblings Alex (4) and Luca (8 months), plus half-siblings Aubrey (6) and Autumn (3). Chris is a disabled Marine Corps veteran and prior to the hurricane was in school at The University of Mount Olive at New Bern full time while being a stay at home dad. (Ellie and Alex’s biological father, Kolton, is also a Marine, currently stationed in Japan.) Also prior to the hurricane, Ashley worked full time as an Admissions Representative at Mount Olive. They moved to New Bern a year ago so they could be close to Chris’s family, and they have absolutely loved living there ever since.

Ellie received a reading award at the mall in New Bern!

When it became clear that Hurricane Florence was threatening their home, the family evacuated, and Ashley asked the kids to each pack a backpack of their favorite things. Alex packed his favorite shirt, a couple of toys, and his favorite book. Ellie filled her backpack so full of books it barely zipped! When the storm did hit, everything that was left behind was lost, including Ashley’s collection of books that spanned nearly 30 years. She had been saving those books from her own childhood to pass on to Ellie and her siblings.

A friend of Ashley’s saw our post last week about sharing books with hurricane victims, and she reached out to see if we could help. We did, sending a box of books to the kids with our best wishes as the family begins to pick up the pieces and figure out their next steps. Here’s what Ashley shared with us this week:

When the box of books arrived yesterday from Book Harvest I let Ellie open it and the smile on her face was priceless. Today when they arrived home from school the first thing Ellie did was bring Alex upstairs to show him the new books and they both spent about an hour reading together with smiles on their faces and laughter filling the room. We cannot express how grateful we are for this kind gesture. Seeing these smiles on our children’s faces during such a difficult time for our family has been a true blessing.

If you’re a hurricane victim or know someone (or an organization) who is, and if you feel like an infusion of laughter and good stories would lift your spirits in these challenging days as it did for Ellie and her family, please reach out to Program Director Rachel Stine ( so that we can help.

And if you’re a Book Harvest supporter — a financial contributor, a book donor, or a volunteer — THANK YOU for your part in making Ellie’s day. Every day, your contributions bring smiles to the faces of so many children in North Carolina, but especially in the wake of Hurricane Florence, those smiles are rays of sunshine in the darkest, most challenging days.


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