Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Kickoff the holidays at the festive RiverTown Reindeer Race in Conway

Kickoff the holiday season with your family at the 8th annual RiverTown Reindeer Race on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016.  Presented by TD Ameritrade with King Construction, ABC 15, iHeart Radio and HTC Digital Cable, the race is a fundraising event of the American Red Cross of Eastern SC and its Red Cross Rescue Racers program.
Both runners and walkers are encouraged to participate in this fun, family-oriented 5k (3.1 mile) race filled with jingle bells and holiday music. Bring the family and your Santa hat, elf ears or reindeer antlers and join the fun. Dogs and strollers welcome on the tree-lined course in downtown Conway.

RiverTown Reindeer Race
Saturday December 3, 2016, 8 a.m.
Conway, S.C.
Register online at

The event is directed by Coastal Timing Management. Racers, which include runners and walkers of all ages, will receive awards presented to the top three overall male and female finishers, as well as the top three finishers in each age category.

Entry fee is $25 before Dec. 2 and $30 on race day with registration held from 7-7:50 a.m. at Conway Riverfront Park area off 2nd Avenue. Pre-registered participants will receive a specially designed Reindeer Race T-shirt and a collectible Reindeer Race bib. Register online at or contact Race Director Jim Troxell at

The Red Cross Rescue Racer Program is the official charity-training program for the Myrtle Beach Marathon. Through this program, participants with varying levels of fitness, can train successfully to run, run/walk or walk the half (13.1 miles) or full (26.2 miles) marathon. Team members vary from beginning to intermediate to advanced runners.
The program is a fundraising partnership of the Board of Directors of the Myrtle Beach Marathon and the Red Cross of Eastern SC. The team also partners with the Grand Strand Running Club for coaching assistance and mentorship. The team program has raised more than $550,000 for Red Cross disaster services. For sponsorship information or to join the Rescue Racers, contact Red Cross Rescue Racer Program Manager Angela Nicholas at or (843) 655-9788.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

One Community

By Michelle Hankes

The word "community" can mean many things to many people. It may be a neighborhood, a city, a congregation. According to Merriam-Webster, a community is a unified body of individuals or people with a common interest, characteristic or history.

In a disaster, communities of all types come together as families support each other in their grief of loss and persistence in recovery. No matter how large a disaster, whether it is a hurricane that strikes multiple states or a fire that rages through vast acres of land, the disaster starts and ends locally with the people affected by it.

Yet there is also a broader community.

The American Red Cross stretches from Alaska to Puerto Rico; from Maine to Hawaii. Every state and city is part of the Red Cross community. This community is made of volunteers and paid staff. It may or may not have a building that can be seen to be present in a city or county, but it is made up of people who are passionate about the mission of alleviating the suffering caused by disaster.

These are the people who leave their homes on Christmas day to help a stranger whose house is burning. These are the people who spend Thanksgiving at a shelter filled with people who can't go home because of a flooded river. These are the people who don't ask Why they should help but rather HOW they can help.

This is the community of the Red Cross. It is one community in that no matter where the disaster occurs, when the call for help arrives, volunteers raise their hands and offer to leave families and jobs to assist where the need is greatest. There are no borders in the Red Cross; Resources of time and money and goods are made available based on need rather than politics.

This spirit of community was seen first hand by Sandra Klein, a volunteer and Tiffany Circle leader of the Palmetto South Carolina Region of the American Red Cross. "Everyone in the country needs to understand the power that comes from uniting around a common goal," stated Ms. Klein. "There are ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles) in the parking lot here in Charleston preparing to deliver supplies, and if you look at the doors, you'll see that they are from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Mexico. This is the Red Cross.

"This is one community."

(Caption for Photo: Emergency Response Vehicles from around the country prepare to serve the residents of South Carolina affected by Hurricane Matthew.)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Small Businesses and Ready Rating

By Michelle Hankes

Colonial-Floral Fascinations is a lovely little shop on a lovely little street in Georgetown, South Carolina. Front Street is picturesque with boutiques and restaurants within view of Winyah Bay, where several rivers come together. When you walk into the narrow flower store, the walls are decorated with beautiful creations: wreathes, bouquets, and vases. You are greeted by the proprietor, Jeanette Ard, with a smile and an offer to look around at your leisure.

After Hurricane Matthew, water flooded through Front Street, reaching as high as a foot in the store. Jeanette proudly pointed to where the water came to on a wall. "I was the first store to reopen after the storm. Most of us around here just moved in last year. I wanted to get back to work as fast as I could."

(Georgetown Flood photo caption: Front Street in Georgetown, SC, saw repeated flooding after Hurricane Matthew.)

Jeanette has experience in reopening her small business after a disaster. On September 25, 2013, a fire tore through the 700 block of Georgetown where many businesses, including Jeanette's resided. Jeanette experienced a double loss because she lived above the shop.

"I had to rebuild from scratch," said Jeanette. "I had some insurance to help, but I needed to open my doors fast because this flower shop is my livelyhood." She credits her ability to do that to being organized and having a plan. "Some people didn't. They aren't here now."

According to statistics from FEMA, over 40% of small businesses that experience a disaster are able to recover, and another 25% close within a year of the disaster. With the loss of these businesses comes a loss of jobs and revenue for the city. The Red Cross, while focused on individuals and families in disaster response, recognized that companies also needed preparedness tools to build community resiliency.

(700 Georgetown Fire Caption: In 2013, several small businesses were destroyed in Georgetown in a large fire.)

The American Red Cross Ready Rating program is a free, self-guided program designed to help businesses, organizations and schools become better prepared for emergencies. Members complete a ReadyGo or ReadyAdvance assessment and have access to tools, tips and best practices to help improve their level of preparedness.

The process is simple: A business can go to and follow the steps to sign up for free. There is a check list of over 100 questions that pinpoint weaknesses and strengths in a company's operations and planning, then a template is provided for an OSHA-approved Emergency Action Plan is created for the business. Tips and suggestions on trainings and other resources are provided to better prepare a business for emergencies. ReadyRating can be used by schools and churches as well as for-profit companies.

(Jeanette Ard Photo Caption: Jeanette Ard shares her story of rebuilding with Red Cross staff member Michelle Hankes.)

However, according to Jeanette, the most important thing you must do when disaster strikes is to remain positive, not only for yourself but everyone around you. In the aftermath of the hurricane, she can be found passing out single roses to her shop neighbors. "I'm the one who keeps everyone's spirits up. We'll all get through this together. And we'll all get through the next hurricane."

Friday, November 4, 2016

Red Cross and Our Partners

Partnerships are vital in not only the response, but recovery of communities impacted by disaster.  South Carolina is no exception as communities continue to work toward moving themselves forward after the devastation of Hurricane Matthew.  A great example of partnerships comes within the shelter in the town of Mullins.  Along with the Red Cross, FEMA and the Marion County Department of Social Services, are reviewing the needs of the remaining residents together.

Shelter residents are assigned one of four groups who will review and tailor a plan that will help to transition them back into their community.  Each resident is unique and has a variety of needs.  Sue, a Red Cross volunteer leading the recovery effort at the shelter said, “We are trying to meet the specific needs of each of the residents”.  With an upbeat attitude she exclaims that they always look at how to make it happen.

This unique group of caseworkers follows up and keeps families on track and motivated each day.  Shelters are never meant to be a permanent solution.  Red Cross looks at integrating each resident back into the community as quickly as possible.  However, the Red Cross takes on the responsibility at making sure every resident at the shelter has a plan as to what their next steps will be and that is where these agency groups come into play.

A wide range of needs include scheduling of inspections, medical assistance, transportation, relocation assistance, and rent stipends.  So far they have issued tents, sleeping bags, MREs, and other goods that have been needed.  They have identified the availability of mobile home, funds from FEMA and worked at coordinating with other agencies such as the Veterans Administration. 

With each day, the teams are successful helping residents find alternative accommodations and as families move on, the shelter continues to dwindle in size.  However, every resident holds a special place in the hearts of each of these caseworkers as they know their situation and story intimately.  As the team transitions another family out, the room explodes in applause.  The team exudes happiness for the residents and knowing that the hard work to find that family what they need has paid off.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Grateful to Give Back

By: Diana Coulter, American Red Cross, Bucksport, South Carolina

Ruth Bronoske is a new Red Cross recruit. She volunteered to help just days after Hurricane Matthew hit South Carolina because she knows what it’s like to struggle.

Twelve years ago, Ruth was diagnosed with Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that she continues to battle. But she has made miraculous progress since moving to South Carolina. And now, she is determined to give back to her new community.

“We lost power for three and a half days after the storm, but so many other people were in such bad shape that I checked with Red Cross to see how we could help.”

Since then, Ruth has assisted at two Red Cross shelters, one in Mullins and the other at Bucksport,
Ruth Bronoske
while her husband, Ray, has worked at a distribution centre in Myrtle Beach loading relief items such food, water and cleanup supplies.

“I know what it’s like to face hard times,” explained Ruth. That’s because, in 2009, doctors were convinced Ruth would die soon. “They were writing things like “end-stage” on all my medical paperwork.”

Determined to have a final family holiday, the couple and two sons drove from their Ohio home to Myrtle Beach. Ruth remembers being so weak at first that she needed help walking through the sand, but after a week, she was playing football in the ocean.“Suddenly, I was just feeling so well again. It really seemed like a miracle.”

Days before the family planned to drive home, Ruth recalls telling her husband that she might be better able to fight her illness if they moved permanently to the beach. “He just said, okay.  Let’s give this to God...And within a few months, we had moved, found a new place to live, and a job here.”
Since then, her health has improved dramatically, although she continues to have regular chemotherapy injections.

“A lot of people with health challenges just stop living, but I've figured out that it’s best to keep giving back in any way I can, and volunteering with Red Cross is another great way to do that.”

To date, about 1,200 Red Cross workers have assisted in South Carolina since the hurricane.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Total Destruction

By: Steve Olson, American Red Cross

“How do you say ‘thank you’ when thank you is not enough?  How do you show your appreciation when you have no ability to repay?  The Red Cross has been phenomenal!  Everyone has been so kind and supportive.”   These are the words of City Administrator Sandee S. Rogers of Nichols, SC as she talked about the devastation of her community and the response shown by the American Red Cross.

The impact of the flood is overwhelming.  As Sandee went down the list of devastation, you could almost see her visualizing the people represented by her inventory of damage:  253 homes have major
 damage and will likely not be habitable.  53 homes were totally destroyed.  In addition, two restaurants, the bank, doctor’s office, pharmacy, post office, fire department, and every business in town including Carolina Eastern ag fertilizer company, a major employer, are gone.  All said they are not coming back.  The community’s six churches have been devastated.  Only 11 homes have minor to moderate damage and only 2-3 people are able to live in their homes at this time.

“It is a miracle that city hall survived.  It has served as a center of hope.”  The books on the library shelves have been turned into shelves of supplies and the library a center for supply distribution.  City hall, now more than ever, has become a place where people can come together.   

“This was the most humbling and most heartbreaking event in my entire life.  The city has been devastated, not by Hurricane Matthew, but by the flood waters from failed dams in North Carolina, specifically the Lumberton dam.”  Sandee remarked that there has NEVER been a flood like this.  The closest was in 1928. 

“Every time the Red Cross showed up they offered hope and encouragement, whether it be meals, shelter, mental health services, clean up supplies or other services.  The impact of the Red Cross was crucial, particularly for the older residents.”

I asked what Sandee would say to the American people if she had a chance, “The outpouring of love from within the state, neighboring states and throughout the country to help this small town was overwhelming.  I would never have expected it to happen.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Twice Rescued

By: Steve Olson, American Red Cross

Rescued only to be thrown in to the flood waters when her rescuers capsized the boat in the swift current and struck a tree. 

Rescheka awoke about midnight Saturday evening to absolute quiet.  Thinking that the worst was over and that hurricane Matthew had moved on, she opened her front door only to find floodwaters lapping at her top step.  After several days without power, her phone was close to dead.  Realizing the predicament she was in, she called 911 hoping that help would be sent.  She was told that rescue teams had gone though her area and was asked how she missed the boat.  “I was asleep on my living room couch and didn’t hear anything,” she replied and again pleaded for help.  The dispatcher suggested she call the fire department, but Rescheka told her that her phone was almost dead and asked that the dispatcher call the fire department for her. 

Feeling that she was one her own, she returned to her couch and a time of prayer.  A sense of peace came over her and she again fall asleep.  Rescheka awoke about 2:00 a.m. and went to her door once more, waving her flashlight into the darkness.  Hope rose within her when she saw a light flicker in the distance.  As she continued to wave her flashlight, the returning light came closer and closer.  Finally the two firefighters told her to jump into the boat.  As they worked their way to shore, the boat caught a tree and quickly filled with water.  Rescheka and the two firefighters suddenly found themselves in the swiftly moving water.  Rescheka grabbed the branch of a tree as the current tugged at her.  As the men got oriented, one of the firefighters encouraged her to trust him to swim her to safety.  With fear in her heart, Rescheka let go of the branch and put her trust into her rescuer.  A few hours later she was safe and drying off in a Red Cross shelter. 

Rescheka and "Mama" Lois share a special moment.
Over the next few days, Rescheka met and became very fond of a Red Cross volunteer by the name of Lois, coming to refer to her as “mama.”  Mama Lois became a source of help and encouragement, often, according to Rescheka, going way beyond her expectations to provide help and alleviate her fears of the future uncertainty.  Lois was not the only one of the Red Cross volunteers that have helped her over and over again.  She couldn’t say enough about all the volunteer Red Cross volunteers at the Marion County National Guard Armory which was turned into a shelter.  “Everyone has done so much,” she repeated several times as we talked.  “I will never forget all the Red Cross has done for me.”