Hundreds of cases of water, bins of medicines and health supplies, boxes upon boxes of diapers and baby goods, cleaning products, canned foods and nonperishables – and a whole lot of candy, too.
All manner of goods donated to Richland County in the lingering aftermath of last month’s flood sit stacked in a warehouse on Shop Road waiting to be put to good use, and the bulk of the items are to be directed to Lower Richland.
There is still great need across the broad, rural swath of the county that lies below Columbia, said Eastover Mayor Geraldine Robinson.
“Initially, we did feel (overlooked), that we were very neglected in this community,” Robinson said. “Were it not for the leadership in the community, we don’t feel that we would have gotten some of the things we needed early on (after the flood).”
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Here is a look at some of the needs that remain in Lower Richland, specifically, and some of the work that is being done to meet them.
Cleaning supplies, baby items. As people are making their ways back into their damaged homes and resettling into their lives, their needs have shifted away from immediate relief items such as food. Many people are requesting cleaning supplies, baby goods such as diapers, and other “hard goods,” such as paper products, said Michael King, the county’s recently appointed flood recovery chief.
Many items of those kinds that have been donated to the county were being sorted in the Shop Road warehouse last week. Six distribution centers in Lower Richland are designated to receive items from the warehouse and distribute them directly to residents, King said. And items from the warehouse also are available to any other areas of the county that have flood-related needs, King said.
The county is not distributing clothing, so it has already funneled some of those donations to Goodwill, King said. People who would like to donate clothing should donate to Goodwill or other community charity organizations, King said, and people who are in need of clothing should go to those places.
Food is in lower demand now that the emergency stage after the flood is well past, and requests for water are almost nonexistent, King said. Many food items that have been donated to the county warehouse are being taken to Harvest Hope Food Bank, especially as expiration dates near on some foods.
Safe wells. One of the biggest consequences of the October floods in Lower Richland was contamination of wells.
The county is working with disaster recovery contractor Tetra Tech to provide free disinfection services and retesting for homeowners whose wells already have been tested by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Those services are available to anyone, anywhere in the county. Call (803) 929-6000 for information about well testing.
Some residents are still not aware that they might need to test their wells, Robinson said. Testing kits are available at the Eastover town hall, she said.
Furniture, monetary donations. For flood victims not just in Lower Richland, but across the region, it could be difficult to replace major items that were lost in the flood.
But the losses could be even harder to replace for some in Lower Richland, Robinson said.
“We are low- to moderate-income people out here in this side of Richland County,” Robinson said. “A lot of them really can’t afford to repurchase things that they’ve lost, because they were just barely able to sustain themselves (before the flood).”
The county has not received any offers of furniture donations, nor does it have the capacity to process them, King said. Instead, furniture and appliance donations should be directed to organizations such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other volunteer organizations vetted by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.
Monetary donations will also be helpful for people buying items to replace those lost in the flood. Robinson said the town of Eastover has an account dedicated to donations designated for flood relief.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division has provided a list of charitable organizations to which to direct monetary donations online.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
Giving help, getting help
If you are in need of flood-related assistance anywhere in Richland County – from food and cleaning supplies to home repair permits, well testing and any manner of recovery needs – call (803) 929-6000. The Richland County Ombudsman’s department will take your request and funnel it to the appropriate person or department to address your need.
If you have help to give, the answer is the same: call the Ombudsman’s department at (803) 929-6000 to direct your donations or time to the correct place. You may also call the state Emergency Management Division’s donation management team at 1-888-585-9643.