Fifth in a series
MARION, S.C. – Marion County residents and local officials took time to reflect and celebrate the tenacity of surviving the devastating impact of Hurricane Matthew a year ago.
Bishop Michael Blue and members of the Marion County Long-term Recovery Group gathered Monday with a group at the Marion County Administration Building to provide insight on the recovery process.
Blue acknowledged the area also endured flooding in 2015 and an ice storm in 2014.
“There is so much that has taken place and much that we have survived as a county,” Blue said. “A little bit more than a year later we are grateful that we are still here despite all that has taken place.”
Blue said much of the work has been behind the scene, thanking the efforts of Sen. Kent Williams in gathering resources and setting up distribution centers for people who had difficulty traveling.
Williams said taking the time to remember what happen includes not forgetting the victims and the ongoing work to return them to their homes.
“We want people to know that these people are still in need, and we want to be able to make sure they get back into a safe and secure home,” Williams said. “We’re starting that rebuilding process, but often times we have to remember that people lost everything.”
Williams said furniture, appliances and more items remain a need.
In January, Congressman Tom Rice announced $52 million of South Carolina’s $65 million allocation in relief aid funding had been secured for Marion County. S.C. Disaster Recovery Office officials said the project is set to help more than 600 homes in the area.
“Now hopefully, by the end of this month they would have already completed 10 homes,” Williams said. “That’s where we are, and that process has really just begun. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet, and a lot of people don’t realize that, but it is a long, drawn-out process.”
Williams said Nichols, Sellers, Gresham, Brittons Neck and west Marion are among the places that were hardest hit.
“We’re not going to give up,” he said. “This is a resilient community.”
Nichols Mayor Lawson Battle said it doesn’t feel like a year.
“Everyone is working together, and everyone knows nothing would be accomplished like it is if everyone was not working together,” Battle said. “It really makes me proud to say I’m from Marion County.”
Battle thanked organizations for helping the town and said progress is being made.
“It’s going to be a long road, but we’re prepared for that,” he said. “It’s been a very humbling experience, but I’m proud of the way things are going.”
Rep. Lucas Atkinson said he credits local municipalities for their efforts and playing a role in response and recovery.
“I really believe we are going to come out better in the end,” he said. “I would like to thank the state leadership for putting the money in the budget where we were able to bring funding back home.”
Disaster response coordinator and MCLTRG member George Olive was among more than 200 volunteers with the South Carolina Conference of United Methodist Church who helped clean damaged homes.
“The real objective is to provide hope,” he said.
Olive said most of the year has involved cleaning up, and now the communities have moved on to recovery and rebuilding.
“I can tell you it’s a heartbreaking task to do this, but it has to be done,” Olive said.
Responding to natural disasters is a work in progress, but the S.C. Disaster Recovery office is using a unique way of gathering contractors to do things at a much faster rate, he said.
Even residents hit hard by the storm remain faithful.
Margaret Tart helped others with clothing needs by operating the Truman Tart Clothing Closet inside the old Anvil plant facility in Mullins immediately in response to aid more than 100 people in shelters.
She waits for repairs to her own home on Pee Dee Island Road in Nichols.
“Everybody on Pee Dee Island Road woke up to water inside their houses,” she said. “All we could do was wait for rescue, but we had hope.”
Tart said despite having to stay in a shelter, she did everything she could to help others.
“I’m thanking God,” she said. “Our houses are not completed, and they have not started, but we have hope, and you have to have patience. That is what we are leaning and depending on.”
Now living in Mullins, Tart says there is no place like home.
“We know something bigger and better is coming, because I know I’m going to be in a new house,” she said.
For more information, contact Marion County Long Term Recovery at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bevolocqua Cross at 843-275-6110.