My time in disaster relief: day three...
Today is one of the most emotional days I've had out in the field. I tagged along with the Georgia canteen, which has the largest canteen in The Salvation Army's fleet. This canteen is so big that we had NASCAR help us balance the mobile kitchen so it wouldn't tip over. Even better, the person driving this canteen helped design it. But that's a story in itself and is coming soon, so stay tuned!
We were headed to Forest Heights Elementary School, which is only seven miles away from The Salvation Army of Columbia, but because of road closures we had to drive almost 30 miles to get there. The team with that canteen told me that yesterday when they went out they thought it would only take 15 minutes to get there. It took them two hours. They stayed up all night looking up road closures and mapped out a route that would only take them 35 minutes.
They had such a huge turn out yesterday that the disaster emergency team from the First Nazareth Baptist Church in Columbia came out to help us serve today. And let me just say, we take volunteers in all sizes.
As the canteen was setting up and lines were forming I began talking with people from the community. Some would share their stories, tell me jokes, and others had me helping them with their iPhones. But one story in particular had me in tears. I'm not usually that emotional, but this story moved me.
"Monday, everything went crazy here. My daughter was walking home and she was shot in the stomach. We tried to get her to the hospital but the roads were flooded, streets were closed... It took us two hours and I thought I was going to lose her. My husband and I drive two hours a day to go see her, but I have a 98-year-old mother who is still stuck in her home. My husband can't get to work and money is running out. These long drives back and forth are killing us. I come here to get food and comfort, and every time I’m here, it makes me feel better."
"I was able to bring my dog but not my cat. When the rain stopped I tried to get back home. After four hours of trying an officer stopped me and told me that the last road I knew to take wasn't open. I completely lost it. I broke down and I couldn't stop crying, I just wanted to get home. He helped me map out a way to get to my house. My cat is okay by the way, but you know something: We are strong, we are South Carolina and when things like this happen, we pull together. We will get through this. The Salvation Army and these meals are a blessing. You guys don't have to be here and feeding us but you are."
"I couldn't play my game for two days! We didn't have power, we do now though."
"I still can't cook, so we come here to eat. It's free and good. But I think I love the staff more. These guys are amazing and they remember us, it makes me feel important."
"We are running out of food so I'm cooking up chicken. No one will go hungry today."
Every day I say I'm going home tomorrow, I've taken enough photos, talked to enough people. But, then I go out and I meet another person. I hear these stories and I just can't think about leaving.
Maybe, one more day....
When you give to The Salvation Army Disaster Relief fund, 100% of your contribution goes to support the relief efforts. You can give confidently and trust that The Salvation Army will Do the Most Good with the resources you provide.