When Hurricane Dorian hit our shores towards the end of last summer, The American Red Cross responded up and down the South Carolina coast. During that storm, they opened thirty-two shelters across the state which safeguarded more than 4,300 people, mostly in the Low Country and coastal South Carolina, Williamsburg and Myrtle Beach areas.
What is laudable of The Red Cross as a national organization, is that they send help so quickly in the face of a disaster. It’s a testament to their dedication to providing relief to all people that when there’s a need in a specific, local community, this national community is quick to respond. With this disaster, there were nearly 650 local and national volunteers. Volunteers from 43 different states across the country traveled to South Carolina to help.
Hurricane Dorian happened in late August. Myrtle Beach was spared a lot of damage, but there were forty homes across the state that were severely damaged, and approximately seven were destroyed.
In Charleston, South Carolina, Deanna Brown’s home was destroyed when a tree fell through the back of her house. The single mother of eight children removed herself and her family to the safety of a Red Cross shelter. She was so grateful to have a place for herself and her children to rest and be fed— and grateful for the Red Cross volunteers who interacted with her children, giving her time to process the experience and plan her next steps.
“It was devastating for me,” Deanna said. “I have such a large family. And that home was most of what we had. The Red Cross has been great— and that has helped make this a little bit easier for me while I process everything.”
The Red Cross was able to offer her some financial assistance as well as referral support after the storm passed.
“This is what we do and what we’re all about,” says Benjamin Williamson, communications director for the Horry County chapter of The American Red Cross. “We help families get back to a sense of normal and so do the generous folks who help us and volunteer with us.”
Although the impact was not too bad in Myrtle Beach, the damage caused sometimes is more behind the scenes, with things like infrastructure.
“Dorian caused a lot of blood drive cancellations, which is something that people don’t really think about when counting loss,” he adds. “As a result, hundreds of drives along the East Coast were cancelled, and because of that, we lost roughly 1100 units of blood; blood that is still needed. To put that in perspective, we were coming off of a summer when there is already usually a shortage because people go on vacation and don’t give as often as at other times of the year. Blood collection is already difficult during this time and Hurricane Dorian compounded it.”
This New Year, if you’re looking for some way to make a difference by giving back, please consider donating blood. Blood donations are always needed and appreciated by The Red Cross.
“Often, in the months after a disaster, because the media coverage dies down, people don’t know that the victims of a storm are still struggling, or that The Red Cross needs help to replenish their resources,” Benjamin says. “This New Year, if people would like to help support our community or the victims of Hurricane Dorian, but not necessarily with a financial donation, then donating blood is the best way to help others and make a positive impact in the community.”
“The Red Cross prepared for the worst, and we got lucky that it stayed mostly off the coast,” he continues. “Now we need help preparing for the next disaster so we can be ready. When you have to mobilize 600 plus volunteers and prepare for the worst, that uses resources. We are always preparing and replenishing so we can be at the ready to help others at a moment’s notice.”
The Red Cross recommends that people also spend some time checking on and replenishing their own emergency kits.
“Spend some time with your family to talk about what worked and what didn’t from your hurricane plan,” Benjamin says.