Savannah Charities Rebuild After Hurricane Matthew
Thanksgiving is always a busy time for charities that feed the hungry. And Hurricane Matthew has forced many of those groups in Savannah to work overtime since early October. The storm created more need - but it’s also inspired people to give back.Some Savannah charities have seen an influx of donations since Hurricane Matthew - while others are still rebuilding.
More than a month after Hurricane Matthew, many in Savannah are still recovering from the losses the storm brought. Food, lost during the power outage. Wages, lost during the evacuation. Homes, lost to flooding and fallen trees.
Some homeless people lost everything. "We almost floated down the river," said Daisy Day a few days after the storm. Since then, she and her boyfriend have been counting on donations from groups like Agape Empowerment Ministries more than ever.
"We had a big tote that floated down the river, lost all our first aid, everything like that," Day said. "So now we’re just slowly trying to build everything back up."
Despite reports to the contrary, the homeless authority did go around to homeless camps and tell people about the evacuation. But some people didn’t get the message. Others, like Daisy, decided to stay.
Asked this week if she's been able to get what she needs, Day said, "Yeah, piece by piece.You know, it’s gonna take time. But yeah, we survived it...but the storm still has its impact on all of us, you know?"
Some local nonprofits are still feeling the impact, too. Cheryl Branch is executive director of SAFE Shelter, which helps women escape abuse. The shelter is working to replace food lost during the power outage.
"We’re getting there," she said. "We’re not, probably, quite at capacity."
Branch said people who usually donate are still recovering themselves - so giving is down. So far, ticket sales are lower than usual for the December gala - the shelter’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
"So if this falls really short, it’s going to be - 2017 is going to be a very difficult year for us," Branch said.
Mary Jane Crouch of America’s Second Harvest food bank said much the same is true for other coastal charities.
"We had a lot of people that came to us that said ‘I’ve always done food drives for you, I’ve always donated food to you for food drives, but right now I just don’t have it,' " Crouch said.
But other nonprofits saw, well, a flood of support after the storm. At Emmaus House downtown, volunteer slots for weekly meals are booked into June. The group’s executive director credits the community response to Hurricane Matthew for the influx.
A few blocks away at Social Apostolate, it was Thanksgiving as usual this week.
Before a room of diners waiting to dig in to full plates, the charity's cook prayed, "we thank you for life and we thank you for breath and we thank you for health. And then most of all we thank you for the donors has donated these items that we are able to give back to you."
About 130 people filed in for a prayer and a turkey lunch on Tuesday, served by a team of volunteers.
Like other charities, Social Apostolate lost food to power outages and served far more people than usual in the days after the hurricane. But Sister Julie Franchie says with the help of a lot of donations, things are back to normal.
"People are very good and want to be here to help those who have less than they do," Franchie said. "And that’s what makes our world a wonderful place to be."