CRAVEN COUNTY - Thanks to help from the community, power is back on for a Craven father and his 3-year-old son who had been living in a home without heat or water this winter.
NewsChannel 12 learned Monday morning that power has been restored to the home of Michael Whitley and his son, 3-year-old James, located on Old Cherry Point Road south of James City. This comes just in time before the record-cold temperatures expected for Tuesday.
Water, however, has not been turned back on, as Michael must pay off his rent first.
NewsChannel 12 reported on Friday that Whitley and his 3-year-old son's home had been without water for four months and without power for about two weeks.
After hearing of the story, two Marine wives got together and set up a gofundme.com account to raise money for Whitley and his son. Those women are Nancy Lewis and Erika Rising.
"We set him up a Go Fund account so he can pay his lot rent, his back trailer payments, turn power on in the house, [and] get the water turned back on," said Lewis.
With the help of many generous donors, almost $8,000 have been collected as of Monday night. The cash will not be given directly to Whitley, the organizers said. Instead, the money will be going to Whitley's landlord and New Bern Utilities to pay for Whitley's rent and power.
Lewis and Rising said Whitley still needs prepaid gas cards. Those who wish to donate items can deliver them directly to Whitley's home at 3907 Old Cherry Point Rd., off of Highway 70 south of James City.
Whitley told NewsChannel 12 he had worked in the heating and cooling industry for the past 30 years. But in January 2013, he was laid off. Whitley said he tried looking for another job, but had no luck.
"The main thing is having gas money to get out and look for work, and either having a telephone to call people and look for work," Whitley said.
Whitley said his home lost water about four months ago, and just before Christmas, his power was turned off. To combat the dropping temperatures, Whitley blocked off a part of the home with blankets to keep heat in the kitchen and bedroom.
The family was also borrowing a kerosene heater from neighbors. Whitley said he and his son would heat food on top of the heater when they can.
Whitey said he and James also stayed at a neighbor's home when weather became particularly bad.
"We done that there at the beginning until I got the heater because there was no need to stay here and let [my son] freeze to death," Whitley told NewsChannel 12.
As a single father, Whitley said he and his 3-year-old son do everything together, such as getting water from a hose at a nearby store. The two would fill about 20 jugs of water during each trip, then load them up into Whitley's truck and bring them back home.
"It ain't too bad because at least we got water. Way to get a bath, flush the commodes and stuff," Whitley said.
According to Whitley, officials with the Department of Social Services had visited his home recently, and deemed that it is okay for his 3-year-old son to live there. But Whitley said he hasn't been able to pay his rent in months, and his landlord told him he would have to move out if that continues.