LUMBERTON — The Friends of the Robeson County Public Library elected new officers and members to its board of directors last week at it annual meeting.
The keynote speaker was retired Raleigh firefighter Woody Woodall, who informed the board of his new camp near Fairmont for wounded veterans, police, firefighters and first responders. Camp4Heroes helps victims of post traumatic stress recover from their wounds.
Owen Thomas was elected president of the Friends of the Library, replacing Vickie Locklear, who remains on the board as immediate past president. Morris Bullock is the new vice president for 2016-17 and Mayme Tubbs and Greg Price remain as secretary and treasurer respectively.
Newly elected board members are Gary Patrick, Sara Hayes and Joey Mitchell. Dr. Neill Lee and James Ebert were awarded emeritus status.
Library Director Katie Fountain updated the Friends on the Library’s post Hurricane Matthew recovery.
“All of our buildings came through the hurricane in good shape,” Fountain said. “Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our bookmobile.”
The library parked its bookmobile inside the fences of Lumberton’s water plant, which was swamped by flood waters. The vehicle was a total loss and 300 books were destroyed.
“We are back on the road with a delivery service, and everybody seems to be pleased,” Fountain said. “The Friends of the Library purchased pre-school books for us.”
Fountain also reported the launch of the library’s much anticipated e-book program called Overdrive.
As an active duty firefighter, Capt. Woodall was North Carolina’s liaison after the 9/11 attacks, and he visited the World Trade Center four days after the attack and many times later.
“So many things have happened that changed my life,” he said. “We lost 343 firefighters and 419 police, and first responders. It seared into my heart.”
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the wounded warriors returning home, complicated by an extraordinary surge in suicides, further moved the veteran firefighter.
“I felt like the whole country had gone haywire,” he said.
However, Woodall’s own near-death experience led him to found Camp4Heroes. It happened he said, on Dec. 17, 2004, when he was called to a house fire in a gated community in Raleigh.
“We believed there was someone trapped on the second floor, so we went in,” he said. “There was smoke and heat but no fire.”
Woodall opened a bedroom door knowing that the fire could erupt into an inferno. Two steps in, it did. He and his partner, who he carried out, were blown back into the hallway.
“I was in respiratory rehab for a year,” Capt. Woodall said. “I thought I would never sing again.”
Depression settled in on him like a dark cloud. He credits the support of fellow firefighters and a therapist who told him to find his passion. He took up art, an old hobby.
“We’re losing up to 25 men and women a month to suicide,” Woodall said. “We’re losing too many guys. I was almost one.”
Woodall has purchased land on Zinth Road, south of Fairmont, and constructed the beginnings of a camp.
“The camp is a sharing place for wounded warriors to talk and vent, he said. “It’s started happening in a little town called Fairmont. I feel like this is God’s country.”