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Salvation Army hard at work helping storm victims

September 25, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – The Salvation Army deployed against Hurricane Florence on the afternoon of Sept. 12, has been in action every day since then and has no plans to step back anytime soon.

“Our first need and request was Sept. 12 for feeding at a shelter,” said Heather Steverson, the business administrator for the Florence Corps of the Salvation Army. “We got the request that afternoon, made up the meals and shuttled them out.”

From that point on, days off for the officers and staff have been few and far between, but the support and assistance has flowed freely.

Within hours of being called to help, officers, staff and advisory board members were at a school in Marlboro County cooking meals for residents who were either sheltering there or on their way to shelter there, said Maj. Michael Rogers, who is in charge of the Florence Corps.

The Army also fed groups and responders who were working storm relief at the height of the disaster.

The Army’s Florence headquarters on Hoffmeyer Road was a happening place Monday morning even as a crew worked to relocate operations to a facility with more room – both inside and out. Part of that effort involved moving several cars so that a refrigerated 53-foot trailer could be moved out of the parking lot where it had occupied approximately half of the available parking spaces.

There was also a crew loading a couple of trucks parked in another area of the lot with materials to be delivered to a recently rented warehouse near Interstate 95 at U.S. 52. Relief supplies for the Pee Dee and Grand Strand will flow into that warehouse before they are redistributed to areas in need.

The Army was also operating two feeding stations in Marion County and had a concentration of people serving communities there.

Rogers, standing in the hall of the headquarters, was looking for a phone number to get a canteen truck out to Sellers in Marion County. He had a name but no phone number. Another staff member, though, had a name and phone number that could get him a phone number to go with the name to get the canteen truck where it needed to be.

There also was a question about Nichols: Had the water there receded enough to get a canteen truck in there? Another call had to be made.

That was part of the morning’s chores, and there was no break in sight as five 18-wheelers were on the road, heading toward Florence, with supplies that would be needed now and later.

Two of the trucks were loaded with pre-packaged cleaning kits. Two were loaded with pre-packaged food boxes, and the fifth was loaded with fresh food for the canteen trucks and feeding stations.

To help with the work at hand, the Army sent in a disaster response team to help with the setup of the warehouse and distribution of supplies and services.

Support, comfort and recovery

Operations during the storm have focused on residents’ immediate needs but will transition to future needs as shelters empty and residents return home and assess the damage. For some communities, that is happening now. For others, that might not happen for several days or possibly a week.

As rivers rose and Hurricane Florence lingered, some residents in shelters were there for days.

Sometimes in instances such as those, little things can mean a lot.

Earlier in the storm, the Army had worked with a corporate partner to get new, clean undergarments for sheltered residents, Rogers said.

And while the canteen trucks continue to patrol and feeding stations continue to serve, the Army will start to shift toward recovery and future needs.

“As we move from the immediate response to recovery, we’ll be looking at other needs,” Rogers said. “If you’re flooded out, you’re staying in a shelter and you have a cot, you really don’t need anything but the clothes on your back. As you’re able to get back into places, into homes, there are resources that’ll be needed, and that’s when we’ll move into recovery.”

Rogers said the Army, working with donors and corporate partners, had bedding and other materials residents will need to help set up their homes again.

“We will have a lot of recovery items supplied and distributed,” Rogers said.

How to help

“The easiest way is monetary donations, as it helps us facilitate what we need when we’re in the process of needing it,” Steverson said. “It helps alleviate some of the logistics of moving items.”

“You can donate online at helpslavationarmy.org, you can donate by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY, you can also mail a check to the Salvation Army, PO Box 1959, Atlanta GA 30301 and designate it 2018 Hurricane Season Florence. You can also text STORM to 51555 to make a donation or you can say, “Hey Alexa, make a donation to the Salvation Army,” Steverson said.

Steverson said the Army has agreements in place that allow it to make a dollar go farther than it would normally go, both through bulk purchases and in-kind donations.

Steverson said 100 percent of donations for the storm will go toward storm recovery.

The need for resources will extend well beyond the days immediately following the storm – and then some.

The Army through September and into October is gearing up for its Red Kettle Campaign and Angel Trees at Christmas, Steverson said, and the impact of the storm will be felt there as well.

“At that time, you see a lot more numbers of children in need because they have lost everything,” Steverson said. “Ones that would not normally need our assistance at Christmas, they’re needing it more than ever at this time, because they’ve lost their homes to flooding or they’re having to use their money to recover from the flood, so our numbers rise a lot more than a typical Christmas season.”

The Army will need help at Christmas for those in need – both in cash and volunteers.

Individuals or groups that want to volunteer for disaster relief or for Christmas can do so sending an email to heather.steverson@uss.salvationarmy.org, or anyone interested in doing disaster recovery work can go online to disaster.salvationarmyusa.org for more information.

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