Catholic Charities helps 300th family recover from disaster

MYRTLE BEACH—Catholic Charities recently reached a milestone in its ongoing mission to help people after floods, hurricanes and other weath­er events that have hit the state hard in the past two years.

In early November, the agency an­nounced it had helped its 300th fam­ily move back into safe, clean, secure housing since fall 2015.

When devastating floods hit the state in October that year, it marked an ongoing cycle of bad weather events that prompted hundreds of people to seek the services that Catholic Charities offers. The need has not stopped since.

Currently the agency is serving people affected by those floods plus Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Hurri­cane Irma in September and torna­does that hit the Spartanburg area in October, according to Kelly Ka­minski, director of disaster services for Catholic Charities and regional coordinator in the Pee Dee.

According to information released by the agency, it has aided storm victims in 19 counties.

Staff distributed 400 food boxes and clean-up kits, and 97 “welcome home” bedding kits to people mov­ing into safe housing. A total of 77 families received temporary housing and the agency allocated more than $290,000 in funds for storm victims.

Despite their overwhelming casel­oads here, Kaminski and three staff members also traveled to Florida in September to help coordinate disaster relief in the Diocese of Palm Beach, which was one of the areas hardest hit by Irma. A second trip to Florida was cancelled because of the ongoing need in the Dio­cese of Charleston.

“We still are working with families that were affected both by the 2015 floods and Hur­ricane Matthew, and we are getting requests for help from Irma victims,” Kaminski said. “We are trying to take care of those people and the people affected by the Upstate tornadoes, and our staff now is completely over capacity with how many people we are handling.”

Kaminski said the five staff mem­bers in disaster services are current­ly handling 85 to 90 cases per person. The normal caseload is 35.

The agency is also facing chal­lenges because funds allocated for the 2015 and 2016 storms are running out. The agency still has about 250 open cases from then.

“Resources from grants across the state are basically drying up … we are definitely unable to open any new disaster recovery cases for people at this time,” Kaminski said. “We’re going to try to work with other local agencies and partners to help people as much as much as we can. It’s sad but that is the state of where things are right now.”

She said any donations of disaster relief funds are welcome, especially since new cases are still emerg­ing, especially in Charleston and Dorchester counties.

Storm relief is an ongoing effort not only in South Carolina, but in hard-hit areas around the country, including the Caribbean.

Figures recently released by the diocese’s Office of Finance show that parishes around the state have contributed more than $631,000 in donations to help victims of Hurri­canes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and for those affected by the earthquake in central Mexico in September.

Miscellany file photo: Catholic Charities staff members distribute support boxes to residents affected by Hurricane Matthew and the resulting flooding in this file photo from October 2016.