As Hurricane Matthew threatens coastal South Carolina, 1,100 volunteers for Eight Days of Hope XII are on their way to Georgetown and Williamsburg counties to rebuilt 142 homes damaged in the epic flooding of October 2015.
Volunteers from near and far will arrive Thursday and Friday and work will begin Saturday. Lucy Woodhouse, executive director of Black River United Way, says many volunteers are from the two counties, including her own family and members of the BRUW board.
Recovery from the October 2015 flooding is one of the major initiatives of Black River United Way, which is partnering with Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity in supporting Eight Days of Hope XII. “It’s very exciting. All our work is coming together this week,” Woodhouse says.
After the project, from Saturday to Oct. 16, the lives of 142 families will be more like before the 2015 flooding.
The 142 homes targeted are located throughout the two counties; 77 in Georgetown County and 65 in Williamsburg County, according to Kelly Kaminski of Catholic Charities. The houses are in communities such as Andrews, Hemingway, Kingstree, Georgetown and Salters. The 142 houses are homes of about one-third of the people still recovering from the flooding a year ago.
Volunteers will sleep in four churches: Kingstree Presbyterian, Williamsburg Presbyterian, First Baptist and Kingstree United Methodist. They will be deployed daily to the worksites or other assignments. The volunteers have signed up with Eight Days of Hope. They are on their own for transportation to Kingstree. “Once they get here, everything is taken care of,” Woodhouse says. Eight Days brings food, and showers for the volunteers.
“Even with the weather [Hurricane Matthew], they’ll hunker down in the churches” and be ready to go to work when the storm passes. Steve Tyber, executive director of Eight Days of Hope, was expected to arrive in Kingstree Tuesday. This is the 12th project of the faith-based organization.
After the October 2015 flooding, the state of South Carolina did a vulnerability study, which measured the recovery capability of communities. Woodhouse says 27 factor were considered in the study, and “Georgetown and Williamsburg counties had the highest vulnerability rating, meaning they needed more help to recover.” The high rating made the two counties a project for Eight Days of Hope.
Volunteers sign up for varying times, with three days being the minimum asked for. Some coming to Kingstree signed on for the entire eight days, others for four days. Only Eight Days volunteers will have assignments in Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.
Both county governments have worked with Black River United Way and Catholic Charities to line up materials needed for the work and support items. The command center will be in Kingstree at the Williamsburg County Emergency Management Division.
As for Hurricane Matthew, and whatever that brings, Kaminski says, “We’re all prepared for the worst, hoping for the best.”