CONWAY—Normally, Catholic Charities in the Pee Dee serves about 300 families a month. In October, following the statewide disastrous flooding, they saw a record-breaking 2,000 families and are desperately trying to restock their shelves.
Kelly Kaminski, regional coordinator of the Pee Dee office, said they are laboring under a perfect storm of needs. Not only do they still have to provide regular food services, but are overwhelmed trying to help flood victims left with nothing, and facing what could be a lean Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Literally, everything we had in our building was gone. We’re feeling a bit of panic at this point,” Kaminski said. “We are still in desperate need for continued food donations.”
While the recent sunshine has been a welcome reprieve, the constant downpours of October and early November left some houses sitting in water for over a month, Kaminski said. People are living with family and friends, trying to replace everything they own — beds and mattresses, sofas, chairs, clothing, toiletries, kitchen items — the list is relentless.
Recently, a desperate mom came into the office in tears, Kaminski said. Flooded out of her home, she and her two young daughters were living out of their car until assistance came through.
Stories like this abound across the state. Elderly men and women living on social security suddenly found themselves with destroyed homes and no belongings. People who weren’t in flood zones and didn’t have flood insurance are using all their savings to repair and replace.
Leisa Lipscomb, with the Midlands office, said disaster relief agencies estimate that there will be 7,500 to 10,000 people who fall through the cracks and don’t qualify for any type of assistance. These are the people that Catholic Charities serves.
“We have positioned ourselves within the community groups to be the meeter of unmet needs,” Lipscomb said.
Right now, workers and volunteers are praying for divine intervention to help all of those needs: daily services, flood victims and holiday programs.
Last year, the Thanksgiving program fed 200 families, with even more expected at the upcoming event on Nov. 21. The office will also host 300 families at Santa’s Workshop at Coastal Carolina University on Dec. 19. Parents will choose gifts for their children while the little ones make crafts and watch Christmas movies in another room. Toys and other items are welcome.
Kaminski praised everyone who helped in the immediate aftermath, but said the need is still there and will be for a long time to come.
“There’s a lot of people with absolutely nothing, so we’re definitely looking at a long road to recovery,” she said.