A Pillar of Positivity and Support in An Uncertain Time
by Melissa LaScaleia
Jonny McCoy is a very busy man. The lawyer and civil rights activist just concluded a civil settlement that awarded his Horry County client $11.5 million.
Thousands of residents along the Grand Strand watched as he stood up for this citizen at a press conference, and almost overnight his Facebook page grew exponentially as reams of people began following him wanting to know what happened. He was approached by countless sites asking him to speak and share the story. Ten days later, the Coronavirus pandemic had spread to the doorstep of South Carolina.
In the wake of his success, Jonny used his internet popularity to help the community cope with this novel crisis. On a Friday, he started a private Facebook page, Horry County Citizens Crisis Response, to make sure that the community could stay connected. Within two hours, 2,000 people had joined the group; within five days, those numbers jumped to 15,000.
“I made this page because this global situation doesn’t feel like the type of crisis where we’re going to know what’s going on from our government and officials,” Jonny says. “So this is a way to connect everybody who wants to help with everyone who needs help in any capacity— whether it’s food, supplies, financial assistance, or something else— so that we’re able to help people efficiently and effectively. I wanted a central location for everybody to be able to find information.”
As fast as the Facebook page grew, Jonny has kept and is keeping stride with the pace, implementing systems to manage the traffic, and most importantly, the requests.
“After I created the page, the first thing I did was ask for help,” he says. “It was incredible the response I got from the community.”
In less than five days, thirty volunteers were working together to monitor the page with 100,000 comments and engagements— and counting.
“It’s crazy what they can do,” Jonny says of his volunteers. “They love doing this. One of the women helping runs a Good Vibes Cat Facebook page with 600,000 people on it. We have business owners, city legislatures, congressmen, stay-at-home-moms, and well-connected community members. These are sophisticated people in their own lives, who are all stepping in, assisting us.”
The team works around the clock, moderating requests to join, making sure that the right people are on the posts, and that there is no bullying, profanity, or unkindness present.
There was already one incident of bullying, and Jonny responded to it as he seems to handle things— swiftly and by stepping up to the plate— permanently blocking the user from the group and with a message (here significantly shortened): “That’s not what I created this group for,” while the community responded by bringing the family who had requested help the supplies that they needed.
“Volunteers are immediately contacted by one of our amazing directors,” Jonny says. “And if you post that you need something, you’ll also be immediately contacted. Whatever you need, whatever you want, we can get it for you now. People are just sitting and watching this page. We have tabs for where you can get childcare, transportation, jobs, online tutoring— everything you can imagine, we have tabs for it. If you’re alone in your house with no toilet paper and your AC stops working, we’re the ones to contact.
“We already procured a refrigerator for a 93-year-old lady. And if people are treating people unethically and unfairly, whether it’s a business or a person, we’ll post that to 15,000 people in the community.”
HCCCR already has two huge storage facilities, but until there is more information about how long the virus stays on boxes and goods, Jonny does not want to initiate a supply chain. Instead, he is pending a partnership with a local church, Wellspring, with the intention of routing all donated supplies through them.
“People want to bring milk to the elderly, or donate a case of water, so we’re connecting them with people who need those items,” Jonny says. “But it’s a logistical nightmare. So instead, our volunteers will bring their donated items to Wellspring’s distribution center to supplement the process that that organization has implemented already. And we will help Wellspring facilitate who needs what from our Facebook site. There will be just one person at Wellspring organizing the goods so that contamination will be minimized. We’re trying to keep as few people as possible involved on the ground, to keep everyone safe.”
“These organizations already have the kitchens and infrastructure in place for the safe-handling and production of meals,” Jonny says. “So we’re asking them what they need to be able to accommodate more people. They tell us. We give it. Without even taking in a dollar, through donations of services and goods, we’ve already expanded the pantry space for Meals On Wheels so that they can provide for everyone in and around Horry County in the event of an emergency food situation. We can also help them in coordinating the effort to get the food out to more people than just the elderly.”
Several days after the creation of the Facebook page, Jonny had his accountant establish Horry County Citizens Crisis Response as a legitimate nonprofit 501(c)(3). Terrance Herriott, the assistant vice president of Conway National Bank, is HCCCR’s new CFO; Jennifer Mullen is the executive director. Jonny has big community plans for the new nonprofit— it’s here to stay.
“We view ourselves as community members coming together with all of our fellow citizen’s backing, manpower, and support— united in responding to whatever crisis is happening in the moment. This response will be ongoing, we just happen to be responding to Coronavirus right now.”
The decision helps Jonny and his team to streamline the process of giving and receiving within the community, as now people are able to directly submit monetary donations. As of the writing of this article, Jonny was already creating the system via which people could do so.
“In addition to supplies, we’re asking for money,” Jonny says. “We’ll be buying food in bulk from one location delivered on a pallet to keep it as sanitary as possible. That’s the best way and best protocol we can come up with right now to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
“And now that we have the donation page set up, we’re expecting this to be full on. We will be taking any individual requests for food from Facebook and sending them to Meals On Wheels, and helping that organization with logistics.”
While Jonny is setting everything in place, he wants people to understand that the meal delivery part of his multi-pronged aid program is currently for dire situations only. He intends to keep things fluid— but for now, people can get out and go to grocery stores.
Additionally, Horry County Citizens Crisis Response is raising money for an emergency fund.
“We’ll be using the money for situations in which the community doesn’t have the item that the person needs, like medical supplies or medicine,” he says. “If the person can’t afford to buy it, we would use money from this fund. We may also need emergency funds for what’s coming, because we don’t know what’s coming. We may encounter a scenario in which citizens will need direct financial assistance from us.”
In just five short days, Jonny has rallied thousands into taking tangible actions to help one another in the face of a staggering quagmire, exacted sweeping positive changes, and implemented practical and insightful systems to support an entire county, now and in the future. Perhaps most importantly, his leadership inspires hope and positivity in a media-horizon that’s been glum. It’s awe-inspiring and humbling.
“It’s been a non-stop five days,” Jonny says of the experience. “I didn’t realize when I made this Facebook page that it was going to blow up the way it has.
“But these people whom I have surrounded myself with… I am so grateful for them. There are fifty people total that are coordinators of this entire philanthropy, working non-stop. And we have 15,000 other people who are willing and able to help at management’s discretion at any moment.
“Right now we have citizens’ attention, and they’re saying, ‘How can we help?’ I think that’s pretty awesome.”
Horry County Citizens Crisis Response Nonprofit 501(c)(3)