NICHOLS, S.C. — Home health-care nurse April Reaves drove up into the yard of the Nichols Baptist Church where the Salvation Army had parked a canteen that was in the process of cooking meals.
Reaves, who served an elderly couple who lives near the community and were flooded out by Hurricane Florence, was out driving around to see what relief there was available Saturday morning.
"They got flooded out real bad. They're looking for some kind of help," Reaves said.
Reaves spoke briefly with an Army worker assigned to the canteen and said she'd be back to get meals for her clients.
As she prepared to get back into her car and back on the roads, Reaves said one thing that needed to happen quickly for residents in flood-damaged areas was for somebody to organize and communicate what services were available, where they were available, when they were available and from whom they were available.
Otherwise, she said, people just had to drive around to where they thought they could find either help or information.
As for lunch, Reaves said she'd be back.
"Thank God, it's great. We appreciate it," Reaves said the Army's canteen.
The meal served Saturday — hamburgers/cheeseburgers with a side of beans, chips, desert and a bottle of cold water — started out Friday as a collection of Salvation Army officers dedicated to the disaster looked at what food was available and organized the collection into a Saturday lunch and a Sunday dinner complete with a salad, though what kind of a salad was the subject of some debate.
It seemed almost easier to define the salad as what it almost was — it was almost a chef's salad and almost an Italian salad. But it was definitely a salad.
Meals and food for Marion County — and other counties hit hard by the storm — are being coordinated out of the former Morning News press plant that is now the center point for Army relief supplies flowing into the Pee Dee and Grand Strand.
Shipments are taken in, broken up and then shipped out — overseen by Capt. Jason Burns.
Saturday's operation started with a brief officers meeting to organize the day before officers and staff gathered around a table for a quick prayer meeting and then load-out.
Over about 30 minutes a crew of eight loaded out three canteens and a minivan, all destined with food and cleaning supplies for Marion County.
Two canteens — Florence and Greenville — were detailed to work in tandem. The Florence canteen, full of relief supplies, would follow Greenville's canteen to Marion where the Upstate canteen would prepare meals and load them into the Pee Dee canteen, which would then roll south with food, bleach, mops, buckets, brooms and other such supplies.
The Greenville canteen would then remain in place and feed flood victims.
The third canteen, from Mississippi, rolled to Nichols where it parked in the front yard of Nichols Baptist Church and prepared meals.
The church, itself a victim of the floods, played host to the canteen and a steady stream of residents who drove up, parked in the yard and were served a fresh hot meal.
At the end of the day the canteens were set to roll back to Florence where the crews would grab dinner at one of the interchange's restaurants, return to their hotels and plan to do it all again Sunday with one exception.
Sunday would start with a church service.
How to help
"The easiest way is monetary donations, as it helps us facilitate what we need when we're in the process of needing it," said Heather Steverson, business manager for the Florence Corps. "It helps alleviate some of the logistics of moving items."
"You can donate online at helpslavationarmy.org, you can donate by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY, you can also mail a check to the Salvation Army, PO Box 1959, Atlanta GA 30301 and designate it 2018 Hurricane Season Florence. You can also text STORM to 51555 to make a donation or you can say, "Hey Alexa, make a donation to the Salvation Army," Steverson said.
Steverson said the Army has agreements in place that allow it to make a dollar go farther than it would normally go, both through bulk purchases and in-kind donations.
Steverson said 100 percent of donations for the storm will go toward storm recovery.
The need for resources will extend well beyond the days immediately following the storm – and then some.
The Army through September and into October is gearing up for its Red Kettle Campaign and Angel Trees at Christmas, Steverson said, and the impact of the storm will be felt there as well.
"At that time, you see a lot more numbers of children in need because they have lost everything," Steverson said. "Ones that would not normally need our assistance at Christmas, they're needing it more than ever at this time, because they've lost their homes to flooding or they're having to use their money to recover from the flood, so our numbers rise a lot more than a typical Christmas season."
The Army will need help at Christmas for those in need — both in cash and volunteers.