On Saturday, July 9, at the end of a week of tragedy and upheaval, a group of volunteers spent a Saturday sweating in the Columbia heat to help two women they had never met. “I’m more in shock than anything else,” said Mrs. A, one of the recipients of the help. “It’s a blessing.”
Athletes racing the XTERRA Harbison Trail Run and volunteers helped rebuild two local homes damaged in the October 2015 floods, in an effort organized through a partnership between nonprofits Race2Rebuild, SBP, Team Rubicon and the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church with support provided by the Columbia Regional Sports Council, Whole Foods of Columbia, Hampton Inn on the Lake at Harbison, XRCEL and a USA Today “Make A Difference Day Award” sponsored by Newman’s Own.
“The fact that the community has responded so well is really a testament to Columbia,” said Aaron Marshall of Team Rubicon, who worked in Columbia in the days immediately after the floods and has seen the rebuilding progress since. He added, however, that months later, the damage is forgotten by many not directly affected. “As quickly as it happened, it went away.”
The July 9 effort began with Race2Rebuild, a group which looks for communities recovering from disasters and schedules events in which runners agree to do volunteer work in addition to the race, and raise money for the rebuilding efforts.
Race2Rebuild organizers reached out to SBP, a nonprofit devoted to helping with disaster recovery whose workers have been in Columbia since last October, and to the SCUMC Conference. Other partnerships followed, and the result was a large team of volunteers, some local and some from places all over the country. The heat was an adjustment for many, for the volunteer work and for the trail run, but no one complained.
“I’ve never had a summer this hot, and I’m kind of enjoying it,” said New Hampshire native Rita Pratte of SBP. “I think [the volunteers] are willing to put it aside and put as much in as they can.”
The help was needed, as even with constant help from SBP and others, hundreds are still in need of help nine months after the floods. The United Way of the Midlands has 472 people on its waiting list for help in Richland County alone. Many homeowners, like Mrs. A, had insurance but found it was not nearly enough.
“It just gave me enough money for the roof, and that’s all,” Mrs. A said of her insurance. She has been living with her sister while trying to find a way to rebuild, and said the help July 9 was a pleasant surprise. “I’m more in shock than anything else,” she said.
“It’s got good bones, this house,” said Sarah Hartmann of Race2Rebuild. Hartmann also presented Mrs. A with a bag of gifts from the rebuilding team, saying “You get a shirt and hat and socks, and our hearts are in there too.”
Other event sponsors and partners included UMCOR, Whole Foods of Columbia, XRCEL, Whole Foods, Champion System, Road ID, Blueseventy, Jersey Mike’s, and Bruegger’s Bagels. More pictures from the rebuilding project are posted on the Midlands Anchor Facebook page.
Pictured: Mrs. A (seated) with some of the volunteers (photo by Allen Wallace)