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113th birthday for Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society

Marines, Sailors and volunteers celebrated the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society’s 113th birthday at Building 400 on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jan. 23.

The society was first established from the proceeds of the Army-Navy football game in 1903 and ran entirely by volunteers.

“We provide financial and educational assistance to active duty, retired service members and their dependents,” said Rita Fountain, the director of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society on Camp Lejeune. “Over the years we have continued to progress into what we are today and we are constantly evolving to provide the services as they change. We’ve dropped programs and added programs to best assist our efforts.”

The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society can assist with covering finances for emergency travel, disaster relief efforts and quick assist loans up to $500. They offer a ‘Budget for Baby’ workshop and a visiting nurse program.

“We are the only nonprofit agency that has the combat casualty assistance visiting nurse program,” said Peter Collins, the executive vice president of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. “The society has been around for 113 years for a reason, and that’s because we keep doing the job that we were assigned to do.”

Anyone who wishes to volunteer at the society can visit their facility and speak with them in person about the needed requirements.

“We are going to try and strive to be around for another 113 years,” said Collins. “We are always looking for ways to take care of Marines, Sailors and their families, but we can’t do that without our volunteers, employees and support from the different commands.”

To contact the society or make appointments:

  1. call them at 451-5346 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m
  2. visit their facility at Building 400 on McHugh Blvd
  3. check out their website at: http://www.nmcrs.org/
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Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

The Topsail Turtle Project was organized by Karen Beasley, as she saw the need to preserve and protect the Sea Turtle nests, nesting females and hatchlings on the 26 miles of coastline on Topsail Island. After Karen’s early death, the torch was passed on to her mother, Jean Beasley, today the Executive Director of both the nesting program and the rehabilitation center.

The dream of a rehabilitation center was realized through the tireless efforts of the Beasley family; their financial support; the support of the project members; and the generous donations of money, time and material from local residents, businesses and visitors.

After breaking ground in May 2010, the new Sea Turtle Center facility in Surf City, NC opened its doors on November 7th, 2013. After years of working in a crowded, cramped 900 square-foot space, caring for up to 40 turtles, the center moved into its new 13,000+ square-foot building.

 (1997 – 2013)

In 1996 a small group of dedicated volunteers with the Topsail Turtle Project stood on an empty lot in Topsail Beach.  The group shared a dream….   They had the opportunity to care for an injured sea turtle who came to be called Lucky.  Lucky was the sea turtle who pointed the way to the need for a place in North Carolina for sick and injured sea turtles, who required long term rehabilitation.  Lucky was cared for with lots of TLC and was able to be returned to the wild.  The question was where would other sick and injured sea turtles in need of medical attention go for treatment and care.  Thus the dream of a place on Topsail Island to provide that kind of sanctuary for sea turtles in need was born.

In 1996 the town of Topsail Beach generously offered to lease a small lot on Banks Channel to the group for such a facility.  The arrival of hurricanes Bertha and Fran put the plans on hold, but the dream lived on.  Finally in the spring of 1997 it appeared that plans could be put in motion again.

Three North Carolina sea turtles who had spent the winter at Sea World of Florida were due to arrive back in North Carolina in mid-june.  They would need a place to go for care and treatment.  Could the group handle it?  With a resounding “Yes!” plans accelerated and by June 19th an outdoor rehabilitation area was ready to receive Karen, Corey and the well known local favorite, Huffy.

As the summer of 1997 passed volunteers were busy caring for the injured sea turtles while monitoring the beach for nests each morning and making sure that baby sea turtles made it safely to the water each night.  Each day in the background were the beautiful songs of hammer and saw.  Construction had begun on the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.  The dream was a step nearer to reality.

Support for the project was overwhelming.  Donations were generous.  Local business did their part.  It was all coming together.  There were nail biting times to be sure, and days when everything seemed to go wrong.  But things kept moving forward.

We moved into our new 900 sq. ft. facility in October 1997,  where air and water temperatures are kept sea turtle warm.

Thanks to all those who have supported the building effort, and to those who continue to support the operating costs; and to the dedicated people who have worked so hard supplying and staffing the center. The dream has become a reality.

Rescue Center Mission Statement

  • The conservation and protection of all species of marine turtles both in the water and on the beach
  • The rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sick and injured sea turtles
  • To inform and educate the public regarding the plight of all sea turtles and the threat of their extinction
  • To provide an experiential learning site for students of biology, wildlife conservation, and/or veterinary medicine from around the world.

Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
302 Tortuga Ln
Surf City, NC 28445
https://www.seaturtlehospital.org/

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Camp Lejeune vets wanted by York VA

York County has a large population of veterans that may be eligible for services recently established by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

The department has established a presumptive service connection for veterans suffering from disabilities that resulted from consuming contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, according to a news release from the county.

The contaminated water is believed to be affecting veterans who served there from Aug. 1, 1953 through Dec. 31, 1987, and the county has a large amount of U.S. Marine Corps veterans who served during this period.

Eight diseases are considered related to this contamination: Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, adult leukemia, multiple myeloma and aplastic anemia or other myelodysplastic syndromes.

Veterans and surviving spouses are eligible for financial compensation for these conditions, according to the release.

The county’s Department of Veteran Affairs is seeking veterans who have been denied claims for these conditions, veterans who have a diagnosis for these conditions but never filed claims and surviving spouses of veterans who died from one of these conditions or one of these conditions was a contributing factor in the death.

Surviving spouses are eligible to receive benefits for life, but they are often difficult to reach because they may be out of the loop regarding VA benefits. Many veterans may not have filed for benefits due to the VA’s history or denying claims, the release states.

The county’s department can be reached at 717-771-9218.

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Onslow outperforming national housing trends

Once again, Onslow County’s housing market defies national trends since the U.S. market imploded about a decade ago.

This week, The Associated Press is releasing a deep study of the nation’s housing market since 2006. That report depicts many U.S. metropolitan areas now facing high rents and low levels of home ownership. The report also attributes disparity between high rent for many middle-aged Americans and low mortgage bills for homeowners who weathered the Great Recession by refinancing their homes. Those who refinanced had extremely low interest rates, according to the study.

But in Onslow County, high rent is common at luxury apartments and high-end homes — but not for all available homes. The county’s market is packed with properties for rent, and for sale, and that has reduced price levels for both, according to information from local realty listings and local real estate professionals. They said Onslow County has many renters because of its house-saturated market with low-priced options.

The Associated Press study attributes the rise in tenants to rising rent levels they cannot escape.

But in Onslow County, rent has been dropping for years, said Ken Brandon, former president and current member of Jacksonville Board of Realtors.

The Jacksonville Metropolitan Area — all of Onslow County — is in the smallest bracket of metro areas with 100,000 households or fewer. The data use U.S. Census information from 2006-2014. The findings placed Onslow County in the “Parent Category” for areas with many middle-aged residents renting — instead of owning — homes.

The area was below national averages for home ownership, with 53 percent of the assessed population in that category. The national homeowner rate is 64 percent, according to the study.

Onslow County had 38 percent of middle-aged adults — 35-to-54 years old — who rented in 2014. The county also was 16th among small metro areas for its rise in rentals of single-family-detached homes. That’s out of a category of 182 “small” metro areas, according to the study. The county was 25th among all metro areas for growth in rental population from 2006 to 2014. That’s out of 353 metro areas overall.

From a local perspective, falling rent and low purchase prices are packing Onslow County with housing options, Brandon said.

“It doesn’t make sense to say sales are up and rentals are up, too, but they’ve got to be,” Brandon said.

He tracks Multiple Listing Service data and other resources. Last year, when Onslow County Board of Commissioners held a housing expo, its leadership called on Brandon to interpret and explain local housing data.

From his recent research, the area’s housing market is bustling with renters and buyers.

“You can show people the numbers all they want, but there is still a feeling in the public’s eye that housing isn’t as robust as it once was,” he said.

Many homeowners are renting out their properties while they wait for price levels to rise, he added.

“And because we’re still in a transition, and because we had a peak long after the rest of the nation did, people are having to bring money to the table,” Brandon said of anyone willing to sell below his or her purchase price.

Rentals aplenty

In Onslow County, there is no shortage of rental properties — including rental houses and mobile homes.

Zillow.com lists 1,239 residential rentals in Onslow. Those include a $395 monthly apartment in Jacksonville, and low $450 monthly rentals each for townhomes and mobile homes in Jacksonville. Most low rents listed mobile homes, townhomes and houses. Most apartment rentals reflected mid-to-upper-level monthly rates.

Brandon said Onslow County’s rental rates have dropped because there are many available.

He did not think rise in rental listings stemmed from inability to buy homes. Home sales, he said, would finish strong in 2016 as well.

New construction sales have dropped over the last three-and-a-half years. Otherwise, sales overall have improved since 2012, Brandon said.

“At one time, we had 1,200 to 1,300 new construction listings,” he said. “I just checked last week and we had 290.”

Compare that to 2,747 homes for sale in Onslow County at Zillow.com.

Those listings portray a vast range of prices. Mobile home sellers in Sneads Ferry asked $10,000 for one property and $12,000 for another. By contrast, a North Topsail Beach listing asks $1.9 million for a five-bedroom, five-bathroom home on New River Inlet Road. There also is a 6,604-square-foot house in Sneads Ferry up for $1.8 million.

Careful buyers

Brandon said many homeowners in the county have opted to rent out their houses — and that has driven down the rental rates overall.

Those rentals are available — not because people couldn’t sell their homes, he said — but because many were unwilling to reduce prices drastically lower than amounts they paid for the homes.

But do local buyers carry fears exhibited by buyers elsewhere shortly after the U.S. housing-market’s collapse?

Brandon said other factors are affecting decisions in Onslow County. Those factors could include service members’ perceptions of basic-allowance-for-housing rates.

“Military members are a little bit more reluctant to commit,” he said, adding that such caution is not common across the board.

“We’ve got so many people who, in early 2006, they had homes somewhere else they could not sell,” he said. “I know people are fearful.”

The area’s new construction, as he expected, is “the lowest it’s been in many, many years.”

“The answer is because it picked up in other areas,” he said. “Some builders that were taking advantage of opportunities in this area, when the chance arose for other areas to pick up in new construction sales, they left.”

Meaning: When other areas’ markets became prospects of greater profits, the builders left, he added.

Single-family-home sales have been rising throughout the last four years, he said.

“Since 2012, we’ve closed more homes each year than before,” Brandon said. “And I expect it to continue. Our foreclosures are down. They’ve been down year over year.”

He said homeowners hoping to recoup purchase prices are not immediately finding sales opportunities at those levels.

“The truth is, house values are still down if they bought at our peak, but sales are up,” Brandon said. “Yeah, this is a unique area.”