By Zach Solon | February 17, 2021 at 1:05 PM EST – Updated February 17 at 6:26 PM
OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – When Sarah Walters woke up Tuesday morning to the news of a tornado that ripped through Brunswick County, she was overcome with emotion.
“I started seeing the pictures come up and my heart just sank to the bottom of my stomach. The devastation was so bad that I honestly had to put my phone down and just prayed,” Walters said.
Walters owns Pelican’s Perch Bar & Grill in Ocean Isle Beach, and her thoughts that morning quickly turned to her employees and others in her community.
“I started reaching out to my staff and making sure that they were all OK,” Walters said. “And from there I just wanted to know how I could impact the area. I started talking to my husband and was like ’what can we do for these people?’”
Walters and her husband decided to reach out to the community on Facebook, offering warm meals to those in need and accepting donations from others in the area.
Since COVID has made large fundraising events difficult, Walters started collecting collect gift cards from various local stores to help victims of the tornado.
“In hard times like COVID there’s only so much you can do,” Walters said. “Only so many places are taking donations … so I was like ‘instead of doing cash, let’s do gift cards.’”
She knows she is fortunate that her business has been able to operate during the pandemic, and sees this as the perfect opportunity to give back, and encourages others to do the same.
“We were in a position where we can give and that’s what our community needs at this time,” said Walters.
The outpouring of support from the community has been a success. Walters says her restaurant has already raised over $1,700 and will continue collecting donations through next Tuesday.
She encourages people to donate whatever they can, whether it be cash, gift cards, toiletries, and other essential items. She wants to get it to those who need it “through whatever means necessary.”
Donations can be dropped off at Pelican’s Perch Bar & Grill in Ocean Isle Beach.
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