The damage from Hurricane Florence was devastating, the strong winds and rising waters taking their tolls on many Carolina coastal communities.  In times such as these, we are both saddened by the losses and, at the same time, heartened by the humanity that inevitably arises in these troubling situations.

In communities all over the Carolinas, people gathered together, bracing themselves and helping others to prepare for oncoming storm. The tales of heroism and bravery will no doubt continue to revealed, as refugees and rescue workers recount their battles, fighting against the furious forces of Mother Nature.

In the seaside town of Outer Banks, North Carolina, 62 international students who are participating in a culture exchange program, were not prepared to weather a major storm.   They were enjoying a summer working in local Food Lion stores when the news of the approaching hurricane came.  Home for these students is far-flung places like Turkey, Russia, Romania, China, and Taiwan, and the word of mandatory evacuation posed great challenges for them. They had no place to flee from Florence, and little resources for finding their way to inland shelter.

Fortunately local Food Lion representatives, like Jessie Calevas, were equally concerned, knowing that the students’ options as foreign visitors were limited.  As their American host employer Food Lion sprang into action, making plans to safeguard the visiting students and to finance many of the expenses of temporary relocation.

The students were informed that they would be shuttled inland to Elizabeth City, safely away from the path of the oncoming storm. They were grateful to learn that expense of their meals, lodging and transportation was not something else they’d have to worry about. Food Lion was handling the logistics and covering the costs, as the supermarket giant had no other consideration than of the safety of their guest employees.

“We take the safety of all our associates seriously during these storms. With our International Associates in possible harm’s way, the right thing to do was to ensure they were away from the path of the storm approaching. They are a part of our Food Lion family,” said Jessie Calevas, Food Lion Talent Acquisition Recruiter.

The students were relieved when they learned that they would be transported away from the oncoming hurricane.  When they arrived in Elizabeth City, they were treated to a pizza party by their Food Lion host employer. During their evacuation, students passed got a chance to know one another better and learn more about each other’s countries and cultures, which is an important component of cultural exchange programs.  They also learned about a caring and kind American culture that rallies to help one another in times of tragedy or trouble.

The students have safely returned to the Outer Banks, and are winding down their summer semester programs and will be soon heading back to their home countries, with a very favorable impression of their host employer and American communities and culture. The students have expressed their heartfelt gratitude to Food Lion for the generosity and care shown to them.

On behalf of our visiting international students and our company, we thank and commend Food Lion for their extraordinary and generous efforts. Thanks to host employers like Food Lion, one of the important goals of cultural exchange – leaving a favorable impression of the United States – is being accomplished every day.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with those who have been adversely impacted by the hurricane.