Even before Hurricane Florence passed over Horry County, local officials were advising people looking to get involved with the recovery effort to check out VOAD.
The acronym stands for Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. The organization operates across the country, uniting charities under one trusted banner.
Started in 1970, the national VOAD is partnered with private and public entities. Some of its partners include the American Red Cross, FEMA, The Department of Homeland Security, AirBnB, UPS and The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
The national organization has a mission of promoting “cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration” between organizations after destructive events. It uses its connections to local and national groups to help ensure all parties are working where they are most needed.
VOAD has organizations in all 50 states and in U.S. territories.
In Horry County, the local chapter is called the Waccamaw VOAD. It works with local organizations like the United Way of Horry County, religious organizations like Team Impact or South Carolina Catholic Charities and Horry County Emergency Services to help coordinate these efforts.
VOAD has had a long-standing relationship with Horry County, county spokesperson Kelly Moore said, and it operates out of the county’s Emergency Operation Center. Being in the room with public safety officials and county leaders helps guide VOAD’s efforts to the areas that need it the most.
The organization will continue to operate and offer assistance to people in Horry County even after the EOC ceases operations, Moore said.
When a volunteer signs up, they’re put in with a local group based on need and skill sets.
Randy Webster, director of Horry County Emergency Services, said this helps make sure that volunteer efforts are organized and working efficiently.
“We don’t know your skill set,” he said. “It’s tough for us to say ‘You need to go do this.’”
As of Thursday, more than 120 volunteer applications had been submitted. While individuals can submit applications, a lot of the ones Horry County received were for entire groups of people.
If volunteering time is not an option, VOAD also accepts donations from individuals and businesses. Horry County said in a Facebook post that donating to the organization is a good way to avoid fraudulent companies profiting off relief efforts.
There is plenty of work to be done in Horry County as floodwaters start to recede. Thousands of homes were flooded, some in areas where residents will not be able to repair their property on their own.
If you need help, the VOAD’s website has a direct contact form to request help from the organizations. The application asks for personal information, home address and more details on what repairs are needed.
“The true first responders are the people in the community helping their neighbors,” Webster said. “People helping people.”