Trask coach partners with Ashe County to help families in Pender County

September 20, 2018

Schools across the state have pitched in to help with hurricane relief, including schools as far west as the mountains. Ashe County High School is one of those schools.

Ronnie Pruitt, a former coach and teacher at Ashe County is now a teacher and baseball coach at Heide Trask High School in Pender County. He evacuated to Ashe County ahead of Hurricane Florence with his wife and son. Earlier this week, they wanted to get out of the house and went to Wilkesboro for the day. That’s when he started checking on his players.

Pruitt reached the father of one of his players and learned they were on the roof of their house awaiting rescue from rising flood waters.

“My heart just broke for them. I knew we had to do something,” Pruitt said. “I told my wife, ‘We really need to do something,’ and God put it on our hearts. I said, ‘Let’s go to the store and I’ll make some calls.’”

Pruitt’s player and his family were rescued and are now staying in a shelter.

On Tuesday, Pruitt called Brian Hampton, the head football coach and assistant athletic director at Ashe County. With the help of school officials, the two men got to work planning a hurricane relief drive at Ashe County.

A local church donated a 20-foot U-Haul truck to collect the items.

“We got the word out through social media, our student council and our school website. We’ve got a local radio station that broadcasted it as well,” said David Koontz, the athletic director at Ashe County. “They brought the U-Haul here on Wednesday morning and people were coming in all day long bringing items, bottled water, toiletries, cleaning supplies, bug spray, all kinds of stuff like that.”

Pruitt greeted people as they made donations and thanked them for their generosity. After teaching for 12 years at the school, Pruitt is well-known in the community.

“We got some of our PE classes to help load the U-Haul. Mr. Pruitt was here all day long telling them, ‘Thank you.’ It was his baby, we just assisted with it,” Koontz said. “It was kind of humbling to me to see all that stuff being brought in.”

Koontz, Hampton and Ashe County principal Amanda Hipp were at the N.C. High School Athletic Association regional meeting earlier this week when they got word of the supply drive that would be happening at their school. When they left the meeting to return to campus, they stopped at Walmart and got about $200 worth of supplies to donate as well.

The supply drive ended Thursday morning at 10 a.m. The entire 20-foot U-Haul truck was filled when Pruitt shut the gate and prepared to head back to the coast.

“People are so generous and wanting to donate. When tragedy hits, people come together and they’re so willing to help out. It brings communities together. It’s just such a good feeling,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt left the mountains on Thursday morning to begin the trip back to Pender County. He expects to arrive on Friday and wants to begin distributing the supplies to members of the community immediately. He said the need in Pender County will continue for some time though.

“Everything is flooded around us ... There are a lot of people suffering and hurting. It’s going to be eye-opening when we get back home,” Pruitt said.

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