Grandfather Mountain aids in hurricane relief

LINVILLE, NC (September 28, 2018) — The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation isn’t about moving mountains; just people.

This week, however, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the Grandfather Mountain nature park moved a veritable mountain of donations to victims of Hurricane Florence.

The effort was spearheaded by park naturalist Leighann Cogdill, a native of Lake Waccamaw in Columbus County, N.C., which sustained heavy flooding during and after the hurricane.

Grandfather Mountain naturalist Leighann Cogdill stands among the $600 of relief supplies donated by Grandfather Mountain and its staff for victims of Hurricane Florence. Photo by Frank Ruggiero | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

“Most of my family is down there, so I represent Columbus County, even though I’m a mountain local now,” Cogdill said. “I’ve always kept my connections there and have a deep tie not only to the people, but to the ecology of the place, and it’s just been so devastating seeing what’s happened to them.”

After seeing the destruction left in Florence’s wake on social media and in the news, Cogdill took action.

“I wanted to set up donation boxes in our various departments to see if people would bring any supplies that could be used for hurricane relief,” Cogdill said.

She approached Kim Rupard, the park’s administrative manager, to see if such an effort could be facilitated.

Grandfather Mountain naturalist Leighann Cogdill stands behind a mountain of donations destined for the Columbus and Brunswick counties, both of which suffered significant damage and flooding from Hurricane Florence. Photo by Frank Ruggiero | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

“She said, ‘I’ll tell you what. Grandfather Mountain will go down to the grocery store and get everything you just gave us on your list,’” Cogdill said.

Furthermore, Rupard put out an email to all staff members, informing them of the fundraising effort. And they answered the call.

The park and its staff ended up purchasing $600 in cleaning supplies, baby needs, pet supplies and more.

“It’s amazing,” Cogdill said. “I just can’t believe it. This is more than I ever could have expected — ever. I hope this can help them through this horrible time and help them understand more so that we’re all in this together, that we’re thinking about them.”

With the goods loaded on a trailer, Cogdill left the mountains Monday for Columbus and Brunswick counties. One of her first stops was a Lake Waccamaw Baptist church, which was coordinating local relief efforts.

“They were completely out of supplies,” she said. “They had a few MREs to give out for lunch, but now they have something to offer. They were so, so thankful. It really touched their hearts.”

“As an organization, we’re glad to play a small part in the recovery efforts,” GMSF executive director Jesse Pope said. “Hopefully, this initial support was helpful, and we’d like to do something more in the very near future.”

With Cogdill’s assistance, Pope is hoping to organize a volunteer team, comprised of park employees and community members, to travel to affected areas and assist in hurricane relief, from rebuilding and repair to clean-up and general recovery.

Those who would like to contribute are invited to email him at

As for Cogdill, she hopes her effort will inspire others to do the same.

“Maybe a lot of folks in the area are wondering what they can do, and maybe when they see what I’ve done, hopefully, they can go into their own communities and lend a hand,” she said.

The not-for-profit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325, or visit to plan a trip.