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  • Allen Turner

Sasser recognized by Gov. Cooper for volunteer efforts after Matthew

For about a month after floods from Hurricane Matthew wrought havoc on Columbus County, Resident Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser of Hallsboro was hard at it most mornings as early as 6:30 and he didn’t rest again until well after midnight as he did volunteer work to try and help alleviate the suffering of his fellow county citizens.

His efforts were lauded in Raleigh Monday by Gov. Roy Cooper, who presented Sasser with a Governor’s Medallion for Volunteer Service, the state’s highest volunteer recognition, for all that the judge did during the aftermath of the storm. In addition to Sasser, more than 20 volunteers from all over the state were recognized for service to others in ceremonies in the Old House Chamber in the historic State Capitol Building.

Sasser was accompanied to the awards ceremony by his wife, Vickie. He seemed humbled by the recognition and pointed out later that he was just one of scores of people who gave of their time and effort to help fl ood victims in Columbus County.

Before hanging a medallion around Sasser’s neck and presenting him with a certifi cate, the governor said, “We all know what happened when Hurricane Matthew came through and devastated North Carolina. It was so bad that they’re not going to name any more storms ‘Matthew.’”

Cooper said that Sasser and Emmett Smith of Dare County, who also was recognized for disaster volunteer work, “went beyond the call of duty.”

Referring to Sasser, the governor said, “This person volunteers his time with the Hallsboro Fire Department. Immediately after the fl ooding post-Hurricane Matthew, he began delivering cleaning supplies, food and water to Fair Bluff residents who couldn’t get out. In one case, he delivered a child’s favorite, oatmeal, since the child wouldn’t eat after the storm.”

What the governor didn’t say was that, on learning of the child’s plight, Sasser returned to his own home, prepared and then delivered the oatmeal to the child, which comforted both the child and mother.

After getting the award, Sasser said, “The main thing I would like to say is that I am very thankful that the Lord has blessed me so that I, often with the assistance of my family and friends, have been able to help some people in need up to this point. I hope and pray that He will allow me to maintain my ability and zeal to help others in the future, because I never want anyone to be able to say that I received recognition for my efforts and then took my foot off the gas.”

Sasser was nominated for the award by Hallsboro Fire Chief Joe Tyler and was selected because of his dedication to survivors of the hurricane. Sasser did not hesitate to help his neighbors and community. After the storm, he immediately began checking on his neighbors, especially the elderly, to ensure they had drinking water and gas for their generators. In submitting Sasser’s name for the award, Tyler wrote, “Doug was able to see the need, make the contacts and supply the needs to a county that was displaced.”

Working closely with Hallsboro volunteer firefighters, Sasser helped distribute food and water while checking on others throughout the community. He estimated that for close to a month he worked from 6:30 or 7 a.m. until after midnight, starting with EMS meetings, many of them at a command center in Fair Bluff, and ending up late at night getting updates on Facebook about who needed help, and where, the next day.

Sasser praised others, saying that dozens and scores of others also deserved recognition. He particularly praised the N.C. Forest Service, Harvest Table of Whiteville and Monte Powell of Pawn South, who provided a truck to help move supplies where they were needed, places like Pireway and Crusoe Island.

“Most of the supplies were going to Fair Bluff, which was hardest hit, but folks in those other areas needed help, too,” Sasser said.

Sasser went to Fair Bluff immediately when he became aware of the fl ood there, asking what he could do. He said he was so humbled by the devastation and the need that he became a man with a mission. Thanks to the N.C. Administrative Offi ce of the Courts, he was able to take leave from his job and began working at least 10 hours a day – and often more – six days a week for the month after the storm.

He saw the need to have supplies closer to survivors, and he made it happen. He used social media to ask for help from people who could fi ll a need, such as providing a delivery truck or driver or volunteering to help collect or sort donations or soliciting specific items needed, among other things.

He was gratifi ed to learn that those who selected him for the high award did not know he sits on the bench. Caroline Farmer, executive director of the N.C. Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, told Sasser, “We didn’t have any idea what you do for a living. Nowhere did it mention that you were a judge. We just knew what you did, workwise, helping out in the community.”

Sasser said, “That made me feel good, the knowledge that the fact that I’m a judge was not factored into the decision.”

Making contacts across the county, Sasser was able to get supplies to those in need and hot meals to communities from which people still could not travel the roads. He also organized a high school senior class to group supplies to be distributed to the shelters and successfully approached Fair Bluff businessman Carl Meares about donating a warehouse free of charge where relief supplies could be stored, sorted, staged and distributed.

In addition to his volunteer service after Matthew, Sasser has served as Boy Scoutmaster and crew leader for more than 20 years and he has served the Hallsboro United Methodist Church in a leadership capacity for more than 15 years.

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