The trucks were filled in church parking lots, at car dealerships and schools from Chester to Fort Mill, York to Rock Hill. Water and diapers and so much more, for people who had lost much, or all, in floods that still are causing havoc in parts of South Carolina.
Teams of cooks packed up trucks to go to Columbia and give strangers something to eat. National Guard troops left homes and jobs and took off for the rest of the state. People took days off from regular jobs.
All to help others.
Nobody had to do it; they just did.
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“This is one of those times where anyone can say they can help, they can make a difference in the lives of people,” said the Rev. Brian Keith, pastor of Faith Assembly of God in Rock Hill, one of several churches to collect supplies. “This is what people do in the spirit of God to show that those who lost so much are not alone. They are not forgotten.
“The rest of us have something to offer them, and it is water and supplies and love.”
The urge to help started small and seemed to grow all week, with no end in site. One of the first places to start a donation site, Fort Mill Ford, planned to fill a trailer to be pulled behind a truck. By week’s end the dealership had collected three truckloads of supplies, and people were pulling off Interstate 77 just to drop off more.
And it all started with a conversation between employee Anne Cash and her nephew, Jason Elkins. Cash contacted The Herald, and people lined up to help for days on end.
“Awesome!” is how Cash described the response.
Another of the early donation sites was Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene, which is still is collecting and delivering. Pastor Jonathan Pannell sent a tractor-trailer of donations to Oklahoma tornado victims in 2013, and since then he makes it a point to immediately collect and deliver when possible. This time, it just happened to be closer to home.
“We will do all we can as long as we can,” Pannell said. “The people who have donated, they show the best of all of us.”
The help came from so many different groups. It came from across denominations, colors, income brackets.
It was, and continues to be, humanity at its best.
Schools banded together, and parents showed up with armloads of supplies. More than a dozen men from Holy Islamville and other Muslim communities delivered supplies, then spent three days working as volunteers at shelters near Charleston, Columbia and in rural Kingstree.
“We all wanted to help people,” said Ramadan Sayeed Shakir, an Islamville leader. “This is a time in our state where we all must pitch in and do what we can for others.”
The military families who have sent their loved ones to Iraq and Afghanistan in the National Guard – losing them for months, sometimes years – lost them again as more than 200 soldiers left to help flood victims. Rock Hill’s VFW Post 2889 collected water and toiletries and other supplies all week, then sent it Saturday.
The VFW and Faith Assembly and so many places will continue to collect this week, too. The need remains.
And then there were Tom and Julie Hall.
Julie Hall is a prosecutor in Chester County. Tom Hall is a lawyer in Columbia. They live between Chester and Columbia, and when the floodwaters came last Sunday, they did not sit safe and dry at home.
The couple and their three sons went door to door in Columbia and found an 87-year-old Canadian named George Osterhues close to death while trapped in a flooded car. Osterhues held onto his dog, Tila, and said he was ready to die.
Tom Hall floated and paddled and battled the current to pull both man and beast to safety. Then his family pulled Tom and George and Tila out of the water.
The story of the rescue, first reported Monday at heraldonline.com, gained international attention as a dramatic example of courage and giving during the flood. The Halls appeared on CNN and got praise and awards.
Guess what they did the rest of the week?
The Hall family pulled their horse trailer around Columbia, collecting supplies. On Sunday, Tom Hall and others are holding a benefit concert at City Roots in Columbia called the Big Dam jam benefit. All proceeds will go to flood victims.
“South Carolina has the best people in the world,” Tom Hall said.
The response to the flooding this past week showed again how true his words are.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065
Want to help?
For a full list of ways you can donate or volunteer, go to heraldonline.com.