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Originally published: 2014-03-26 13:34:47
Last modified: 2014-03-26 13:35:32

Samaritan's Purse expands at Wilkes airport

by Anna Oakes

Boone-based international relief organization Samaritan's Purse is set to expand its aviation operations at the Wilkes County Airport with the purchase of a 20,000-square-foot hangar.

The organization announced in a recent press release that it is planning to buy the former Dove hangar at the airport, which was originally built by Lowe's Companies in 1989 and 1990. 

Samaritan's Purse's aviation operations have been based at the airport since 1989, and the organization has since outgrown its current hangar facility at the site, which is currently for sale, the organization said.

Wilkes County is also the location of Samaritan Purse's International Disaster Relief warehouse and support services office, with 13 staff scheduled to begin working from that facility in early spring.

The organization's North American Ministries are also headquartered in Wilkes at the former Coca-Cola bottling plant on N.C. 268 East, and a recent property purchase will also aid in that ministry's expansion. Samaritan's Purse recently acquired the former Lowe's Company headquarters to accommodate the growth of the ministry.

The North American Ministries arm of Samaritan's Purse has 32 full-time staff who have worked with more than 83,000 volunteers. In 2013, Samaritan's Purse deployed to 17 disasters with the help of over 15,000 volunteers. Relief teams have already deployed to four ice storms in 2014.

Five disaster relief units -- which are tractor-trailers stocked with tools and cleanup supplies -- are positioned at the North Wilkesboro facility to be deployed when disasters strike.

By the end of May, Samaritan's Purse will have a total of 55 employees working in Wilkes County. 

"We so appreciate Wilkes County and the people here," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse, in a statement. "They have always been tremendous partners with this ministry, and as our work expands, Wilkes is a great place to grow."

Samaritan's Purse, which has headquarters offices and an Operation Christmas Child distribution facility in Boone, is the fourth largest employer in Watauga County, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.