SANTEE — County, state and federal emergency services officials are calling on faith-based and nonprofit organizations to step up to the plate to help those in the area still struggling with flood recovery.
“We feel like a lot of the cases now are falling back on the churches in the community,” Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said Friday morning. Staley spoke during a long-term recovery workshop at the Santee Conference Center.
“We don’t want the churches bearing the burden,” he said.
Staley said the historic October flooding dropped significant rainfall on the region, leaving in its wake major damage to properties. Some parts of the county saw nearly 20 inches of rain between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6.
The Holly Hill area recorded about 20 inches while the Orangeburg Airport received about 11 inches. St. Matthews got about 13 inches, and Bamberg received about 8-1/2 inches.
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration helped provide some relief to T&D Region residents, there are still some severe unmet needs, Staley said.
He said about 67 percent of residents who applied for FEMA assistance in Orangeburg County were denied help.
“That sounds high, but in a lot of areas, it is not. Out of those, there was a high percentage of people who had deferred maintenance and what FEMA would classify as insufficient damage,” Stanley said. “This means my roof has been leaking for a long period of time and I never fixed it, and now I have 20 inches of rain and there is a mess.”
Case management statistics indicate there are at least 80 cases in Orangeburg County where severe flood needs exist, he noted.
“We know that everyone who is not in that 80 is going somewhere,” Staley said. “We think there are an isolated number of people who still have a need who are reporting it to their churches.”
He said shortly after the flooding, FEMA estimated potentially 6,000 people were impacted.
Staley said Friday’s workshop was intended to inform churches about the current long-term recovery committee in place in the region and to encourage them to join the Long-term Recovery Committee.
Approximately 20 people, representing federal, state and local government agencies, attended. Churches participating were Orangeburg Lutheran Church, Cornerstone Community Church, New Life Temple Church of God in Christ and the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
The LTR was formed in December through the partnership of the South Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, the South Carolina Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Currently, groups such as the Salvation Army, Samaritan House and the Edisto Chapter of the American Red Cross are part of the committee but more members are needed.
Staley said being involved in the LTR enables churches to leverage resources, coordinate home repair/rebuild efforts and collaborate on case management in an effort to reduce duplication of services.
“The system is here, and we need to track these cases,” he said.
Being a part of the LTR also enables churches to have access to the One SC Flood Relief Fund, Stanley noted.
Gov. Nikki Haley set up the fund after the October flooding so corporations, foundations and individuals can donate to the flood relief efforts.
The purpose of the fund, which can be accessed at yourfoundation.org, is to help bridge the funding gap in order to rebuild the state and help citizens resume their lives.
If a need is identified, a church can apply to the fund for financial assistance, Staley said.
Louis Carrow, FEMA Voluntary Agency liaison, said there are currently 26 volunteer agencies helping with flood recovery in the state and training is available for people who do not have the skill sets but would like to help.
“This is not something that is going to be done in a month or two,” Carrow said. “It is going to be ongoing. The more people we can get into this thing, the stronger the community is and the quicker the community can come back.”
A meeting with the faith-based and business communities is scheduled for Wednesday, March 16 at the Santee Conference Center.
The event is free and open to nonprofit groups, churches and businesses.
Bishop Dr. Richard Copeland of Orangeburg’s New Life Temple Church of God in Christ said a handful of people have come to the church seeking assistance for flood damage over the past few months.
“I want to find out how I can help and see if I can provide assistance to people in need,” Copeland said.
Ken Westbury, chairman of Calhoun County Cares Board, said his county was not hit as hard by the flooding as its neighbors in Richland and Orangeburg counties. But, his organization is there to help, he said.
“Certainly if people come to our doors, we don’t know what their needs are,” Westbury said. “We don’t do repair projects, but we guide people to those types of people.”
Those who are still struggling with severe flood recovery needs are asked to call 211 or an organization such as a church or the Red Cross for assistance.
For more information about the long-term recovery efforts, area churches and organizations are asked to contact Pastor Kary Poinsette at firstname.lastname@example.org; Mike Patterson, South Carolina Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster chairperson, at email@example.com or Joane Miller, South Carolina State Voluntary Agency liason, at firstname.lastname@example.org.