By Tim Bullard
GEORGETOWN — When Georgetown experienced the wrath of a terrifying tornado that destroyed homes Oct. 11 near St. Cyprian Church, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul were quick to provide aid thanks to a parish disaster plan they had in place.
Tropical Storm Kyle snuck up on Georgetown County’s coastline as the twister struck suddenly with no Doppler warning.
“We were here,” said Sister Kathleen Driscoll at the newly renovated parish kitchen. They had just finished up with their soup kitchen that Friday when one of the volunteers returned to tell them that a tornado had touched down.
“We walked out in the neighborhood to check on folks,” Sister Driscoll said. “We’re going to do a second offering next week. About 60 homes were damaged. Some are totally destroyed. The majority of the folks don’t have homeowner’s insurance.”
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Diane Bullard, regional director of the Pee Dee Office of Catholic Charities, said the sisters worked with the American Red Cross and other agencies to serve all victims with gift certificates. Catholic Charities Pee Dee responded with gas vouchers and checks. Several priests also visited the neighborhood.
The parish disaster committees at St. Michael Church in Garden City and Precious Blood of Christ in Pawleys Island also offered teams of people to assess and verify damage for victims who request assistance .
Catholic Charities immediately began its response to the disaster and will continue with long-term relief efforts, said Dorothy Grillo, director of Social Ministry for the Diocese of Charleston.
Sister Driscoll reported that Methodist church members had joined Catholics and Baptists serving food and clearing tree limbs in this ecumenical outreach.
Two of St. Cyprian Parish members were affected by the tornado. One needs roof and windows repaired, Sister Kathleen said, and the other person lives in an apartment complex that had window damage.
“We served about 50 meals yesterday to people in the community,” she said. “We had it publicized on the radio and by word-of-mouth.”
Parishioners helped prepare the food. Fortunately, there were no deaths.
“It hit a lot of vacant lots and missed a lot of homes,” said Sister Driscoll. “We had some of the folks who were injured and treated at the hospital come by for dry socks and clothing.”
Sister Eleanor Casey, also a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, said, “I was on the phone calling to cancel a field trip for our after-school program. There was a huge noise — probably lightning — and everything went out.”
Sister Maggie Jackson, a Franciscan Sister of Mary, said, “It was pretty bad. They let the schools out early because they were afraid of flooding.”
The parish’s new Vincent Building and Clothes Closet came in handy as parish members used flashlights to find the right sizes. Someone brought a generator by Friday so food would not be lost in the freezers.
Firsthand eyewitness accounts of the tornado were chilling. Nathaniel Gardens, 49, came in for a meal Sunday.
“It shook my whole house,” he said. “It knocked all the lamps off the tables. It was like a whistling when it went by.”
Financial support is needed to help victims with home repairs. Donations can be sent to a special relief fund that is arranged to help the victims at Catholic Charities Tornado Relief, P.O. Box 3091, Conway, SC 29528.