Outer Banks Relief Foundation: Lifting up the vulnerable

Published 2:07 pm Monday, March 23, 2020

It’s no secret that the Outer Banks is a giving community. When families are in need, there always seems to be people around, ready to step up and help out in whatever way they can.

The Outer Banks Relief Foundation is a stellar example of a group of people that have come together to assist those experiencing hardships. In 2019 alone, OBRF assisted 102 families facing health challenges as well as damaged property.

Patty McKenna, executive director of OBRF, said she got involved with the foundation because she was always curious as to what happens when someone experiences life changing events and what measures are in place to help those people. “When I moved here [to the Outer Banks], that was something on my mind,” McKenna said.

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After volunteering with several organizations, McKenna said she stuck with the OBRF because their mission was clear and simple: an act of love goes a long way when things are stressful.

McKenna explained that the efforts of OBRF are straightforward in that they are there to help with the financial end of things. If someone’s house burns down or they suddenly become paralyzed, the foundation can step in and help with the mortgage, rent and car payments.

The foundation was incorporated in 2004, with records traced as far back as 2006. In those 14 years, OBRF has assisted people from all walks of life. One person in particular was touched so much by the help of OBRF that he now finds himself wanting to join and contribute his time to the foundation.

Jason Johnson was working hard in 2017 to help pay the bills for his family when his youngest daughter, Ansley, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After already having a daughter with cerebral palsy, the family was no stranger to medical bills, but this put them in a very tough situation.

“It took the wind out of the sails,” Johnson told The Coastland Times. He said the family had never heard of the OBRF foundation before, but a friend of the family had mentioned them.

Thanks to the foundation, the Johnson family was able to get Ansley through cancer treatments while the foundation covered household bills in 2017 and 2018. Now, Ansley has recovered is an active elementary school student.

“It’s a blessing that we were able to benefit from the foundation,” Johnson said. While dealing with long work days, back and forth driving from the hospital and no sleep, Johnson said he got to know several individuals involved with the OBRF – one of those being Scott Brown, vice president of the foundation.

After working as a financial advisor and pastor, Brown said he decided it was time for a new “vacation” of service to others. He got involved with OBRF because “the mission of the foundation is really making love tangible to people in need in our community.”

Brown said that if he ever found himself in a situation where he could not financially provide enough for his family, similar to Johnson’s case, then he would certainly hope someone would step in to help him.

After becoming a member of the OBRF, Brown was chosen to chair a newly launched campaign in 2017 called IMPACT OBX. Within two years, IMPACT OBX drew more than $1.05 million. Brown said donors from all across the east coast contributed.

“Most meetings were individual face to face meetings and for the most part, donors were people we had a relational connection with,” Brown said. Just by the power of the stories the foundation shared, people were drawn to their mission. The average donation during that time was about $3,800.

“For most part, this is an uncomplicated, beautiful way to lift up the vulnerable,” McKenna said. The $1 million IMPACT OBX campaign concluded in Dec. of 2019 and touched thousands of lives. Since 2006, the OBRF has given out $2 million to almost 1,000 families on the Outer Banks.

“The foundation is just a great group of community leaders that come together and help people in times of need,” Johnson said. He admitted that after working with OBRF, he finds himself wanting to get involved, let others know what they do and encourage them to donate to help those in need, like he was three years ago.

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