Charlotte, NC (April 17, 2020)–The Salvation Army is responding in several communities across South Carolina after 15 tornado storms raked through the state on Easter Monday morning. In the hours after the storms, initial damage assessment teams determined at least 911 homes in 21 counties sustained some type of damage. Of those, 181 homes had major damage and 111 were destroyed.
The Salvation Army of Beaufort, South Carolina, led by Captains Robert and Wanda Long, are working alongside Nixville Baptist Church in Estill (Hampton County) where the EF3 tornado displaced fifty families. Five people in the community died in the storm and three were members of the Church. The nearest grocery store is a 30-minute drive, so the church has set up a distribution center and is preparing and serving food. The Salvation Army is providing supplies and Captains Long are providing emotional and spiritual support.
This looks like a war zone,” said Captain Robert Long. “How do you help in such chaos? One man told me the three minutes the tornado was on the ground were the longest three minutes of his life. We are here to help any way we can.
The Salvation Army of Orangeburg, South Carolina, is providing emotional and spiritual care as well as food, water, and clean up support to two families in the small town of North who lost their homes in the storm. The Salvation Army is also there to assess any unmet needs of the families.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for us as we serve. We see people hurting and we want to hug them,” said Captain Kellie Cantrell. The challenge is remembering in the midst of the chaos, there is a pandemic and there are guidelines we have to follow to keep ourselves and the people we are serving safe.
The Salvation Army of Aiken, South Carolina, is providing food, hydration, and emotional and spiritual care for families in Windsor, SC, where a tornado destroyed a large number of homes.
Lieutenant Randull Tiller has been serving since the storms came through the area. “These are good people, and they are dealing with a difficult situation. Some don’t have insurance because they live in older mobile homes. I am glad we can be here to help.”
One day at lunchtime, Lt. April Tiller was driving through the area, providing hot meals to people as they worked. She decided to drive up a hill and came to a long driveway. “Something told me to go up the hill,” she said. “There was a half-mile driveway, so I followed it and came to a house. I found an elderly couple whose house had been hit by a tree. They had no power and were wondering how they were going to eat and feed the volunteers who had come to help clean up. I had the exact number of meals I needed to feed them.”
The town of Seneca (Oconee County), South Carolina, was especially hard hit. Power is still out in the area and may not be on for another couple of weeks, despite the power crews working around the clock. The Salvation Army of Greenville sent a mobile feeding kitchen to Seneca to provide hot meals, hygiene items, work gloves, and hand-sewn masks to residents.
“We are providing emotional and spiritual care to many people,” said Debra Andrews, service center director for The Salvation Army in Seneca. “It has been quite a challenge – we are a ministry organization and want to do nothing more than to share a hug, smile, or hold someone’s hand. You don’t realize how much intimacy you lose when facial expressions, lip-reading, and even voices are blocked or muffled. Even through the challenges, we are sharing the love of Christ with people.”
The service The Salvation Army is providing in the aftermath of the Easter Monday tornados is much like the work done every day in Salvation Army facilities across the country. Lieutenant April Tiller describes it perfectly. “We are a disaster service – we help people every day who come to us on the absolute worst day of their lives.”
The disaster can be as massive as a tornado that destroys a town, or as personal as losing a paycheck. No matter the scope, when disaster strikes The Salvation Army is there, helping with a smile and a word of hope.
Financial donations are the best way to meet the evolving needs and to support relief efforts. To donate to The Salvation Army’s disaster relief efforts, visit www.HelpSalvationArmy.org.