Bob Jones University has partnered with Operation Renewed Hope this week to bring flood relief in the form of food, water, manpower and monetary donations to the areas of Columbia flooded by the impact of Hurricane Joaquin.
Joaquin, a Category 4 storm, brought heavy wind and rain to the Carolinas on Oct. 7, and it was the strongest hurricane of 2015 to date. Water systems, dams, roads, bridges and state infrastructure have all been severaly damaged.
In response to the critical need less than two hours away from campus, the University organized a three-pronged plan of action.
The first step was to stockpile supplies to bring to the flooded city. Randy Page, director of public relations for the University, expounded on the strategy.
“For faculty, staff and alumni in the area who really want to be of assistance, we’re doing a food [and] bottled water drive,” Page said.
Getting drinking water in some areas of Columbia is still very difficult at this point, with trucks of bottled water being emptied in a matter of minutes after arrival. Staying hydrated while trying to clean up has been a problem for the city.
“It is South Carolina after all,” Page said.
Students and faculty— as well as alumni living within a 50-mile radius— received emails about the drive.
The drive collected mainly water, but also large stacks of nonperishable food items, diapers and baby formula in the lower lobby of the Davis Field House between Saturday, Oct. 10 and Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Margaret Stegall, a junior journalism and mass communication major and the women’s inter society council director, is the main organizer of the student effort.
“We just want students to have an opportunity to see what is going on right outside our back door,” she said.
Dr. Greg Mazak, pastor of Trinity Bible Church in Greer and member of the BJU seminary faculty, announced the drive to his church Sunday, and the congregation responded with enthusiasm.
Steve Reimers, a member at Trinity and an alumnus of BJU, volunteered his time and the use of his pickup truck to haul in over 25 cases of bottled water donated by the church members in less than 24 hours.
The second prong of the University’s plan is sending a group of volunteers to Columbia to help in the cleanup and aid distribution.
As announced in chapel on Monday, the University sent a team of 45 students to Columbia to help the reconstruction efforts. The bus of students left early this morning and will return late in the evening.
The University had many options while trying to decide where to send all the supplies and volunteers. Operation Renewed Hope was key in finding a project that would be a good fit for the University.
“One of the projects that really appealed to us was Congaree Baptist Church, a church getting ready to celebrate its 250th anniversary,” Page said. “They were hurt particularly hard in this area of Columbia, and not only the church but some houses around the church.”
“The [church] building was basically destroyed from the inside out,” Stegall said. “We’re going to be cleaning, helping to lay down flooring and doing some landscaping in a nearby cemetery.”
Stegall also hopes that BJU’s testimony will generate interest in Congaree Baptist Church among people in the community.
“Hopefully, [helping the houses in the area] will provide the church with an in-road,” Stegall said.
The third prong to the plan of action is providing monetary support. The emails sent out last week contained a link to Operation Renewed Hope’s website where anyone interested can send their tax-deductable donations.
For more information on opportunities to get involved with the relief effort with Operation Renewed Hope, visit their website at http://www.operationrenewedhope.org/ or follow their blog at orhnews.blogspot.com.