Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse is buying a 19,738-square-foot hangar at the Wilkes County Airport from Raleigh-based Capital Bank as part of an expansion in Wilkes.
Samaritan’s Purse’s North American Disaster Relief operations are headquartered in North Wilkesboro and its aviation operations, closely aligned with disaster relief, have been at the Wilkes County Airport since 1989.
Staff of 55 in Wilkes by end of May
A Samaritan’s Purse press release said the Christian relief ministry now has 32 people working fulltime in Wilkes and that it will have 55 fulltime employees in Wilkes by the end of May, including 13 more in warehouse and support services.
Franklin Graham, founder, CEO and president of Samaritan’s Purse, is a pilot and often is seen at the Wilkes airport.
“We so appreciate Wilkes County and the people here. They have always been tremendous partners with this ministry, and as our work expands, Wilkes is a great place to grow,” said Graham this week.
The purchase of the hangar from Capital Bank was scheduled to close today.
On Tuesday night, the Wilkes County commissioners approved the transfer of the lease of county-owned land beneath the hangar from Capital Bank to Samaritan’s Purse.
Capital Bank bought the hangar from Dove Air Inc. in a foreclosure sale for $2.29 million in late 2011, apparently what Dove owed Capital. Dove had leased the land under the hangar from the county since 2006.
Gary D. Blevins, chairman of the county commissioners, said he was very pleased about Samaritan’s Purse acquiring the hangar, which originally belonged to Lowe’s Companies Inc.
Blevins said Samaritan’s Purse might have left the Wilkes airport if the former Lowe’s hangar hadn’t been available.
Important presence in Wilkes
“This has been some time in the making and it will raise and enhance the quality of the airport,” he said, adding that Samaritan’s Purse is an important source of revenue for the Wilkes airport. “There is no question in my mind that they will continue growing.”
Samaritan’s Purse has a Falcon 900 jet and a King Air 300 twin turboprop plane based at the Wilkes airport and is the airport’s largest buyer of aviation fuel, purchasing 4,000 to 5,000 gallons per month.
Blevins said the next largest two buyers of fuel at the airport are West Jefferson-based J.R. Vannoy & Sons Construction Co. and North Wilkesboro-based Window World.
Samaritan’s Purse now operates out of two hangars at the Wilkes airport, both with about 8,000 square feet under roof. Tyson Foods Inc. originally owned one and Samaritan’s Purse built the other. The press release said these hangar facilities are for sale.
In addition to space for more aircraft, the former Lowe’s hangar provides Samaritan’s Purse with considerably more office space at the airport.
Flying often is the only way
Samaritan’s Purse has a total of 15 aircraft, including two helicopters, in strategic locations around the world to support the organization’s ongoing relief and development work in remote areas and are ready to be deployed when disasters strike, said Samaritan’s Purse spokesman Karina Petersen.
Ms. Petersen said flying is often the only way to reach the hardest-hit places after earthquakes, storms, attacks and other emergencies leave roads and bridges impassable.
Samaritan’s Purse aircraft fly over 4,100 hours a year on missions ranging from delivering emergency supplies to refugee camps in South Sudan to flying wounded military personnel and their spouses to Alaska for spiritual refreshment, physical renewal and marriage enrichment.
“These types of projects have significantly increased our flight volume. We marvel every day at what God has done and give Him the glory,” she said.
21 acres purchased
Samaritan’s Purse bought 21 acres along N.C. 268 East in North Wilkesboro from Lowe’s Companies in early February. Deed stamps show a purchase price of $620,000.
The North American Ministries arm of Samaritan’s Purse is adjacent to the property in the former Coca Cola Bottling Co. building, which Frank Harrison of Charlotte donated to Samaritan’s Purse in 2009. The 21 acres is the site of a former Lowe’s corporate headquarters building, which Lowe’s recently tore down.
The press release said the 21-acre site “will be utilized to accommodate the growth of this critical area of the organization’s work,” referring to the North American Ministries. No additional details were given on these plans.
Based at the Samaritan’s Purse facilities on N.C. 268 East are five disaster relief tractor-trailer units, each stocked with tools and cleanup supplies and ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice when disasters strike.
Relief teams with the units were deployed to 17 disasters, with the help of over 15,000 volunteers, in 2013. Two of the units and relief teams are currently deployed to assist ice storm vehicles in North Carolina.
The relief operations based in North Wilkesboro have helped over 28,000 families impacted by natural disasters in the U.S. by repairing, cleaning and rebuilding homes.
Samaritan’s Purse has provided aid to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine and persecution in over 100 countries since it was founded in the early 1970s.