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Nonprofits stepping up for vulnerable Columbia October storm survivors

VIDEO: Volunteer organizations banding together to help flood victims

Non-profit organizations across the state are using donated flood relief dollars to rebuild and repair houses for flood victims. Donations to the One S.C. Flood Relief Fund, endorsed by Gov. Nikki Haley as a way to directly help the state's most v
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Non-profit organizations across the state are using donated flood relief dollars to rebuild and repair houses for flood victims. Donations to the One S.C. Flood Relief Fund, endorsed by Gov. Nikki Haley as a way to directly help the state's most v

Stanley Beard is thankful to be done with chasing squirrels through his north Columbia home.

The furry pests for years had taken up residence with Beard, 67, a retired widower who lacked the money or physical strength to repair a hole in his home’s roof.

The historic October rains further damaged the home. Water poured through the roof as Beard scrambled to set out pots and buckets. The squirrels scurried in as well, seeking shelter from the storm.

“It sounded like the world was coming to an end,” Beard said.

The storm ruined the roof, ceiling and floors, plus a bathroom where the toilet fell through the soggy floor.

Beard did not apply for federal disaster aid. But he likely would not have gotten much help anyway because much of the storm’s damage to the home can be attributed to the faulty roof.

Fortunately for Beard and other poor and elderly residents left vulnerable after the storm, that is where volunteer organizations have stepped in to help. Nonprofits have done much of the heavy lifting after the historic storm, helping residents gut and repair their homes.

Those organizations statewide have especially targeted single parents, veterans, the poor, the disabled and the elderly. Some of those residents fell through the gaps of insurance and federal aid because of technicalities or did not receive enough to pay contractors for home repairs.

Home Works of America, a Columbia-based nonprofit, took up Beard’s case and 11 others. The nonprofit spent two weeks in late December repairing Beard’s house. Home Works plans to work on 10 more flood-related homes in 2016.

More than a dozen nonprofits so far have received funding through the One S.C. Flood Relief Fund, set up by the Central Carolina Community Foundation and endorsed by Gov. Nikki Haley.

The fund’s first round of grants, amounting to $500,000, helped nonprofits repair about 350 homes in 13 counties across the state, said Dana Fulmer, who directs the fund. Another 244 homes will be repaired using funds from the second round of grants, Fulmer said.

“These are the people that would not be able to rebuild without the help of volunteer organizations,” Fulmer said.

Jim Powell, executive director of Homes Works, said “hundreds if not thousands” of homeowners in Richland and Lexington counties still are struggling with “unmet needs related to flooding.”

That means service organizations like Home Works still have work to do, Powell said.

“Our community needs its local service organizations to creatively find solutions,” Powell said. “Even though we’re not big yet, even though it’s just one home at a time, we’re still seeking to step out.”

As a result, Beard hasn’t chased a squirrel in weeks. His house has a new ceiling, heater, light fixtures and flooring. The roof has been repaired, and the toilet rests on a solid bathroom floor.

“It’s more satisfying living here. I feel better,” said Beard. “I don’t mind having company now. I was ashamed of the place because I had never lived like that my whole life. My parents didn’t raise us like that. And it was just nothing I could do about it.”

Beard has his house back, but also a little more. Beard said he has built a relationship with the staff at Home Works, including program manager Chris Kemp, who helped oversee the repairs at the home.

“I’ve got a friend for life,” Beard said. “My heart gets warm when I think about Chris. If they’re doing work like this for other people, the world is a much better place than we all thought.”

Avery G. Wilks: 803-771-8362, @averygwilks

How to Help

People wanting to help have been asked to donate to the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s One S.C. Flood Relief Fund.

Visit www.onescfund.org to donate online.

Text “onesc” to (843) 606-5995.

Call the foundation at (803) 254-5601.

Mail a check payable to Central Carolina Community Foundation–One SC, 2711 Middleburg Drive, Suite 213, Columbia, SC 29204

By the Numbers: One S.C. Flood Relief Fund

$500,000

Amount awarded to nonprofits in the first round of grants

350

Number of homes repaired

13

Number of counties where people were helped

244

Number of homes to be repaired using with a second round of grants

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