Emilie Hart, Cape Fear Regional Director

Recently, StarNews Media and the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce released their annual 40 under 40 list. This year, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh is excited that our Regional Director for the Cape Fear Office, Ms. Emilie Hart, was included on this list. Following this recognition, we sat down with a few of Hart’s coworkers and community partners to learn more about why she was a good candidate for inclusion on this list.

In speaking with those who work with Hart, many repeated themes emerged, including a positive energy for her work and an incredible compassion for the community she serves.

“Staff members respond to her like she’s a joy to work with,” shared Jermain Armour, pastor at St. Luke Church in Wilmington. “I’ve witnessed the glow on a client’s face after shelter or food has been provided for them. Her job is not about doing charity, it’s about being charity and that’s what Emilie is.”

Hart started with Catholic Charities in 2015 and was quickly tested when Hurricane Matthew impacted the area in October 2016. This was her first experience responding to a hurricane but would not be her last. Two years later, in September 2018, the Cape Fear area was again devastated by Hurricane Florence. Through these challenging times, Hart threw herself into her work, serving the community, and bringing her family along with her.

“I wouldn’t be a social worker, or work in disasters if it weren’t for her,” shared Ms. Audrey Hart, Director of the New Hanover Disaster Coalition and Emilie Hart’s sister.

William Morrow, right, and Olivia Morrow, left, volunteering after Hurricane Florence.

Audrey Hart was inspired by what she saw her sister accomplishing and left her job to be part of the recovery effort, joining the New Hanover Disaster Coalition. But the commitment of Hart’s family to serve the community doesn’t end with her sister. Frequently, her husband William Morrow, their two children Olivia and Liam, and her parents, Richard and Sylvie Hart, are seen at Hart’s side volunteering to distribute supplies and help survivors.

Throughout Hart’s time serving the Cape Fear area, partnership has been at the core of what she has accomplished. One key partner for the work of the Catholic Charities Cape Fear office is the Diaper Bank of North Carolina – Lower Cape Fear.

“Emilie serves with her whole heart and she approaches each situation with creativity and a true commitment to reaching underserved communities,” shared Ms. Julie Bowling, Branch Coordinator for the Lower Cape Fear Diaper Bank. “By working with other nonprofits, the public sector, and innumerable community volunteers, she fosters a collaborative environment designed to empower others to serve while assisting as many people in need as possible.”

Another key partner for Catholic Charities and the community has been the Cape Fear Area United Way.

In his work with Hart, Mr. Tommy Taylor, CEO of the Cape Fear Area United Way, shared, “I can’t recall how many times I have witnessed Emilie stepping to the plate when no one else would. The long hours, daunting tasks and environmental challenges have never slowed her down since I have had the pleasure to know her.”

In working with numerous community partners, Hart’s schedule fills up quickly, but those around her say she still finds time for everyone.

Emilie and her team of staff and volunteers supporting a disaster preparedness expo in 2019.

“She is funny, very compassionate, and makes you feel like family,” shared Mrs. Victoria Carter, Disaster Case Manager for Lutheran Services of the Carolinas. “Emilie makes the people around her and the communities she is in feel like they are the most important thing in the world. Emilie never backs down from an obstacle and she brings the people around her over, under, through or around the obstacle with her.”

Hart draws on the commitment of her fellow Catholic Charities employees in the Cape Fear office to serve the community in such a dedicated way.

“She is the hardest worker I have ever witnessed in my life. She inspires all of us to work harder and try to be a more caring person all around,” shared Ms. Michelle Yanicak, Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager. “Just watching how much she does in the community, and how she is always willing to take on something new, is pretty inspiring. It fuels our office to be the best that we can be.”

One reason staff are so committed to the work of Catholic Charities is the team approach Hart brings to her work. “She puts herself on our level, she’s so personable that it’s easy to go to her for anything,” shared Ms. Daniela Vereau, Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager. “She exemplifies ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ When I think of that phrase, I think of Emilie.”

Throughout multiple interviews, there is one story that repeatedly was shared as an example of who Emilie Hart is.

Picking up the box truck to begin serving the community as Hurricane Florence left the area.

Immediately after Hurricane Florence, before the rain had even stopped, Hart gathered a group of volunteers to load their Catholic Charities box truck with supplies and get out into the community. While they were driving around the community, avoiding tree branches and other debris in the road, a woman saw in large text “Catholic Charities.” She knew this might mean help and hopped on her bike to catch up with them. Hart stopped what she was doing and listened to this woman in crisis. The woman shared how she had a family member trapped in a flooded house three counties away and didn’t know what to do. Due to her past work in the community, Hart had the right relationships to connect this woman with emergency responders and help the family member to be rescued.