Jo Ellen Schneider, Director of Family Promise of Florence (SC), is no stranger to tropical storms. “Here along the southeastern coast, you get used to gearing up for hurricane season…we tend to be a little cautious.”
As it became increasingly obvious that Hurricane Matthew was going to hit her community hard, Schneider called Kathleen Titus, her friend, neighbor and Director of Family Promise of the Midlands in Columbia, about an hour to the west of Florence. Titus assured her that Midlands would be more than happy to help by hosting the Florence families if their local congregations were affected by the storm.
Matthew made landfall in South Carolina on Friday. By Saturday morning, the entire region was under water. With winds approaching 100 mph buffeting the area, trees, structures and power lines were at the mercy of the elements. By nightfall, 95% of the area was without power—1.4 million eventually lost power up and down the coast—and many were without drinkable water.
Florence’s van driver picked up the families—two moms with three children each– around noon on Sunday and they made their way to Seven Oaks Presbyterian Church in Columbia. Schneider was thrilled with their reception. “The host church was fantastic! They made up additional space, had enough food and truly made our families, and my driver, feel at home.” Schneider was able to work with Kathleen to make sure the families had activities scheduled in Columbia—they even arranged a day trip to the Riverbank Zoo for the kids—freeing her up to concentrate on getting her Affiliate back up and running.
Schneider spent the week securing the Florence Day Center, dealing with the power company, following up with their insurance company and preparing for the families’ return. They stayed in Columbia for a couple of days, returning to Florence on Tuesday, no worse for wear from their brief adventure. Midlands volunteers even sent them off with fresh groceries as a parting gift.
“I’m not sure what we might have done if not for Kathleen’s gesture,” said Schneider. “It was such a comfort knowing our families were in good hands.”