A week ago, the Rev. LaTonya Dash was not quite what you would call a master of drywall – never measured it, never cut it, never hung it.
That all changed on Sept. 21, when she and 140 other volunteers from across South Carolina gathered in Chesterfield and Marion counties to work on 11 homes damaged a year ago by Hurricane Florence. They joined in the Hurricane Florence Day of Service at the invitation of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church’s Disaster Recovery ministry.
“I had absolutely no experience with anything to do with sheetrock,” said Rev. Dash, pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Darlington. “But those of us without those skills are able to help our neighbors rebuild because we have great teachers on hand and willing to train us, to work right beside us.
“So it doesn’t matter what your skill level is, you can do this. You just have to show up with a willing spirit and ready to work.”
UMCSC Disaster Recovery has been working to help rebuild damaged homes for a few months – scheduling volunteer work teams here and there across the Pee Dee – but the Day of Service was the first mass event.
Volunteers from nine of the conference’s 12 districts – from the Upstate, through the Midlands and to the Lowcountry – worked side-by-side with local volunteers.
UMCSC Disaster Recovery accompanies communities in need over the long haul of their recovery until a “new normal” is established after a crisis. The Hurricane Florence effort is focused on the upper Pee Dee and Grand Strand area, working with homeowners to fill in the gap between their resources and their unmet needs. Much of the hands-on work is performed by volunteers. Click here to volunteer and learn more.
“It has been a tremendous and wonderful start for our recovery efforts, but it’s just the beginning,” said Tim Whitten, the conference’s disaster recovery director. “This is a marathon race we’re in. We expect to be working on more than 200 homes for the next two years, so we will continue to invite volunteers and teams throughout the state to come and take part in this recovery.
“Come pitch in for a week, two days, a day here and there – whatever you are able to do. We hope you continue to reach out and continue to support us through your service and through your prayers.”
The Rev. Tim Rogers is superintendent of the Marion District, which took the brunt of two significant hurricanes in two years – Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018. He was grateful to see so many people from near and far taking the time to help a neighbor.
“You come because of the way the Lord blesses you,” Rev. Rogers said, “to be able to see that something you’ve done has helped somebody else put their lives back in order. But mostly it’s about making your faith real.
“To me, a lot of this is about gratitude for all that God does for us – to give something back to the Lord by giving back to the people that the Lord puts in our lives.”
For Laney Lyles, a member of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lancaster, seeing the smiles on the faces of the people she was helping was more than enough reward for giving up a beautiful Saturday to be a part of something big.
“We’re not the first team that’s been in this house, and we won’t see the end result today,” she said, “but it’s kinda cool that so many hands will be on this project and this lady will be touched by so many people.
“If you’re on the fence about volunteering for something like this, do it. You walk away feeling fulfilled, feeling positive. You don’t realize what you have until you realize what somebody else doesn’t have.”
Mark your calendar:
A Hurricane Florence Weekend of Service is being planned for the Rev. Martin Luther King Day weekend, Jan. 18-20, 2020. If you’re ready to sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org.