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Nonprofits: Pawleys firms join United Way in aiding rural residents
By Emily Topper
In the yard of her Sampit neighborhood in rural Georgetown County, Patricia Trappier is building a nursery garden with her granddaughter. Area children flock to her house to play board games and horseshoes. She cooks for anyone who walks through her front door.
“They call me Auntie Trish,” Trappier, 64, said. “Mama Trish.”
In her bedroom, gold-colored mesh and ribbon have been woven together to form a canopy for her bed.
“I said, ‘God, show me what to do,’ ” Trappier said. “I got to dress it up. That’s how I got my yard, too. I said, ‘God, look at this? What do you think, do you like it?”
Trappier has lived in her home for almost 30 years. She was there when she worked on construction crews building high-rise motels in Myrtle Beach. She was there when her only granddaughter was born. She was there when she coached a neighborhood baseball team and led a Boy Scout troop.
She was there in October 2015 during South Carolina’s catastrophic storms, and in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew ravaged the state. She was inside when part of her tin roof was ripped away, when her kitchen flooded, when the floor buckled.
“I stayed right here,” Trappier said. “I stayed here through the storm. I just trusted in Him and I stayed right in my house.”
Trappier took out a loan to patch her own roof and fell into debt. She called local organizations, seeing if she could get any help.
“I had so many people that I was contacting,” Trappier said. “And they said they were going to get back to me. Nobody ever got back to me. I was scared to even come in the kitchen. When my grandbaby came over, I blocked it.”
Trappier lived with buckled floors and a roughly-patched roof for nearly a year. And then, the phone rang. United Way was on the other line.
“They said, ‘Would you mind if I come out and look at your house and see what we can help with?’ ” Trappier recalled. “That was a blessing from God. Because I was trying so hard to get myself back together, and it was rough. It was real rough. But God sent help, and then things started falling in place for me.”
Trappier’s home was one of the hundreds in need of repair following the 2015 and 2016 disasters. With financial aid from Black River United Way, three Pawleys Island area contractors have joined forces to make the damaged homes safe, secure and sanitary.
Enter Clinch Heyward.
The Ricefields resident had just retired from his construction company, Sterling Homes, when he heard about United Way’s project. They had funds, but they needed organization and local contractors to do the work. United Way hired Heyward in March to help with getting “boots on the ground” to complete the work.
“You had this mass of problems, you had money from various resources available to do the job, but there was no organized entity to go do the work,” Heyward said. “I heard about this and it just spoke to me. They like to talk about weather events as thousand-year events. Well, we had two thousand-year events in two years. These people are putting tarps on the roof, they’re putting plastic over the walls. They’re closing off parts of their home. It’s a serious situation that gets worse every day. What that means in my mind is that there’s urgency to try to help.”
Traci Summers of Summers Roofing and Pat Condon of Carolina Custom Contractors are leading efforts to help the restoration process. Both companies are working to complete about 10 homes per month for a combined 240 homes per year.
“We’re very fortunate to find two companies that specialize in renovation and that have the heart for this,” Heyward said. “United Way is going through the process of getting grants to fund this work. Pat and Traci and I created a program that we hope can be sustained and grow in size to the goal of 20 homes per month.”
To stretch the finances as far as they can go, the contractors restore homes to suitable conditions. They fix floors and roofs, rebuild stairs and address plumbing issues.
“We get them back up to a stable situation,” Heyward said. “It’s a compelling call to work and one that I’m very excited about doing. But even at that, it will be two years before some of these people get help. It’s a heartbreaking thing. Some of them have lost hope. You’re bringing hope to the hopeless, in a sense. The more we can do, the better.”
Summers has hired two crews and Condon has hired three additional team members for the work. Both have pledged to hire locally to continue to stretch available dollars.
Summers, who worked for the nonprofit Miss Ruby’s Kids before working for the family business, said the work is a way to give back to the community.
“We’re local. This community has been fantastic to us,” she said. “We want to be increasing the number of homes we are doing each month. We’re trying to see how we can help the most people in the least amount of time.”
Condon agreed with Summers’ sentiments.
“Truly, it’s a team effort,” Condon said. “When they approached me, we put a team in motion. It’s neighbors helping neighbors. If I needed help, I’d want someone to help me.”
Lucy Woodhouse, CEO of Black River United Way, said more community partners are needed to sustain the effort. About a third of the funds for the project have come from the One SC Fund, which is aimed toward helping state residents recover from natural disasters.
“But the more money we raise, the more houses we can repair,” Woodhouse said, adding that the project has helped the organization prepare for future disasters. “Shelter is a basic need. The more homes we can get safe, secure and sanitary now, the more solid they’ll be to withstand future disasters. What if they’d all been sanitary before these storms? Would the recovery have been as intense if the homes were in better shape? This is about helping your neighbor.”
Funds from federal disaster relief are earmarked to help the elderly, disabled and families with small children. The rest, Woodhouse said, fall into the pot of those United Way is trying to help.
“In my sense, the community needs to take care of its own,” Heyward said. Eventually, he said, he would like for a third contractor to join the project and complete an additional 10 homes per month, bringing the total up to 30.
Trappier’s home was completed by the contractors this past summer. Her kitchen is safe to walk in again and she has a new set of front steps. Her tin roof has been replaced.
Trappier said everything happened in God’s time. Every week, she volunteers at St. Paul Sampit Church where she plants flowers, weeds and trims the hedges.
“God is helping me,” she said. “It’s the grace of God and that’s why I reach out and help other people. I’m grateful, I’m grateful.”
“I’ve been fighting,” she said. “I’ve been trying hard. But thank God, I made it through it. I made it through it.”
To assist with United Way’s flood relief efforts, contributors can donate online at blackriveruw.org, or by calling 843-546-6317.
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