HAMPTON COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) -Relief and recovery efforts are well underway in Hampton County. Several non-profits and community members came together to help the families affected by Monday’s deadly storm.
Nixville Baptist Church is one of several collection points for a number of essentials. One representative from the Salvation Army in Beaufort County came through to ask what’s needed.
Another non-profit out in the hardest-hit areas is the American Red Cross’ Lowcountry South Carolina chapter and damage assessment workers. One crew on Turner Expressway examined the damage in that area. They’re providing food to those affected, hygiene kits and temporary shelter. But in an era of COVID-19, that is being handled a little differently.
“It’s bad. There’s still people without power, I know the crews are working hard to restore it, " said Ashley Henyan, executive director of the American Red Cross of the Lowcountry. "But last night about 50 people stayed in Red Cross assisted sheltering. And in the case of how the world is right now, that means hotel rooms for the most part. Because we want to make sure that anyone that needs a safe place to stay has a safe place to stay, but that we’re also practicing social distancing for our clients and our volunteers.”
The number of those sheltered is now around 200.
In addition to encouraging families to take time to establish emergency plans, the American Red Cross is also asking for monetary donations, especially since costs to general operations have gone up since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Tammy Thaxton is the director of Hampton County’s recreation department. But today, she became the director of Hampton County’s relief effort.
Within just a few hours of Monday’s tornado, Tammy got the word out: Hampton County needed help.
"Small towns are great about responding so I came back here to the rec center, went on Facebook, shot it out, people from all over shared it."
Immediately, people responded.
“Hampton County is first and foremost going to step up and take care of our own.”
They say it’s because they love the community.
"Hampton County always sticks together. No matter what it is. "
“I was the one that said I was going to leave and not come back and it just so happens I came back. Earlier, last month, I moved home to Hampton. So what better time to be back home to help my Hometown community,” said volunteer Tonya McQuira.
They're trying to socially distance while stepping up to help.
“Some have masks some don’t. So it’s definitely not the safest. Everybody is wearing gloves.”
But they say they’re focused on people’s needs.
“We got a stage full of clothes, and they are separating them by size, by gender, all the stuff. We’ve got diapers, wipes, this kind of thing. People are just giving.”
The group is going property by property through the tornadoes path with a check list.
“What are your personal urgent needs? And they’ve been filling them out. We get them back, we fill their orders, and we take it to them.”
Even holding onto some items for a few days.
“I had people from Bluffton, Hilton Head, calling me and saying they’ll bring up supplies by Friday – so people that are rushing in now, it won’t be dwindled out.”
All to help the community.
“We try to be positive and have and faith in God that we will get through this, and we will get through this.”
Neighbors are also stepping up to help.
“They are helping us get, clear away. This tornado tore up my whole house. So I can at least get a car out of here," said Lorraine Roberts who’s house was destroyed.
“Here we are just trying to gain access to this Dash there’s a house back there somewhere and we are trying to get to their vehicle," said off-duty Burton Fire Captain Bobby Davidson.
Bobby Davidson lives in Hampton County and works in Beaufort County for the Burton Fire District. His house is less than a mile from the tornado’s path.
“I got off duty and had someone cover my shift for me. And when I got up here it was unbelievable. We are just trying to help people out, people who have lost almost nothing and 100 yards away people who have lost everything and don’t have anything.”
Tuesday he and a crew of off-duty Burton Fire District fireman have devoted their time to helping those who don’t know what steps to take next.
“We have four people, four guys and my wife. And we have four chainsaws. And we just show up. If we see where there may be a problem or there is not enough work getting a lot done, we stop and offer. And then we just go to work whatever they need.”
It’s that generosity that is bringing survivors to tears.
“You don’t never know until something like this happens just how much a neighborhood can pull together. How well everyone loves each other it’s just, it’s amazing. It’s really amazing.”
Other municipalities are also pitching in, because the damage in Hampton County is widespread, everyone understands it’s a team effort.
“Right now there are four here, yesterday we had quite a few also and there are more coming. So they are bringing supplies, bringing clothes, I believe the drop off point is in Burnsville so, that’s where we’re at right now.”
The cleanup in Hampton County will likely last four weeks, but the people say it’s not about making sure everything immediately goes back to normal, it’s about making sure they have what they need right now so they can move forward.
If you’d like to help through donations of volunteer work, call 803.914.2167