Helping Our Neighbors in Need
By Ellen Watts, Lutheran Services Carolinas
Hurricane Matthew, 2016: In the fall of 2016, Lutheran Services Carolinas had just begun to provide case management to victims of last year’s flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin when Hurricane Matthew arrived, creating another crisis. LSC then began to raise money for a discretionary fund to help victims of Matthew in the Carolinas (go to www.lscarolinas.net to donate). Although LSC is unable to provide immediate disaster assistance, it helped direct Lutheran volunteer groups to the United Way, the lead agency in South Carolina for immediate disaster response.
Hurricane Joaquin, 2015: LSC’s role in disaster response generally is to help address long-term needs, and LSC is currently helping victims of last year’s flooding in Richland and Lexington counties, which sustained the worst damage from the 2015 storm. LSC staff members also feel a personal connection here.
“Richland County is our own backyard,” says George Knox, the supervisor of LSC’s disaster relief program. “We are trying to find a way to help. We see what’s going on here and want to be involved.”
To aid in relief efforts, LSC hired two disaster case mangers, Lavada Smith and Ashley McKee-Thompson, thanks to a $238,892 grant from Lutheran Disaster Response. Smith and McKee-Thompson, based out of LSC’s Columbia office, will work to connect families to resources and funding. LSC is part of the Midlands Long Term Recovery Group and will use this network to fulfill unmet needs of families, ranging from construction work to mold removal.
“For the people that need to rebuild or repair, we’ll help them find a volunteer group to do construction work or a volunteer group that has clothing,” Knox says. “We’ll also be working with different organizations to pay for temporary housing.”
LSC will also use a new $75,000 discretionary fund dedicated to flood relief in South Carolina. The South Carolina Synod donated $65,000 and the “Cheerful Giver” of the Central Carolina Community Foundation (an anonymous donor) gave $10,000 to this fund. LSC disaster case managers will nominate families with exceptional needs to receive portions of these generous gifts.
In addition, LSC is enhancing its capabilities to respond to future disasters. “We serve states that are not immune to bad weather,” says Mary Glidewell, LSC’s director of Information Technology. Thanks to grants from the North Carolina Synod’s Michael Peeler Fund and the South Carolina Synod’s Mission Endowment Fund, LSC has purchased the Toughsat T-100, a self-contained multi-purpose communications trailer.
Nicknamed “Major Tom” by the LSC IT team, the T-100 is a critical piece of equipment if a disaster disables Internet and phone service. This trailer is equipped with a satellite, internet and phone capabilities, and a gasoline powered generator allowing it to operate without electricity. When not in use by LSC programs, it can be deployed where needed most.
In the coming years, LSC will continue to evaluate flood relief efforts in South Carolina. With new staff and technologies, LSC is prepared to help our neighbors in need.
“We are excited to be working with cases and trying to help folks,” Knox says. “We are ready to help wherever we can.”
November has been designated as the Lutheran Services Carolinas month of emphasis by the South Carolina Synod. For more than 25 years, LSC child and family services has supported vulnerable populations in South Carolina through special programs aimed at promoting healing and wholeness. These programs include child and youth services, such as therapeutic foster care, and services geared toward adults with developmental disabilities, homeless veterans, and refugees.
For more information about LSC, visit www.LSCarolinas.net. To find out how your congregation can celebrate the ministries of LSC, contact Kristen Kitchen at 704-754-8229 or kkitchen@LSCarolinas.net or Ellen Watts at 704-603-1696 or ewatts@LSCarolinas.net.