By Jessica Brodie
COLUMBIA—Nine months after the South Carolina floods, Annie Taylor still can’t go home.
The October floods devastated her modest three-bedroom home in the Highland Park community of Columbia, collapsing the ceiling in two bedrooms and ruining her flooring, insulation and drywall.
“I’m a widow, all by myself, and it’s been really hard,” Taylor said.
She’s been bouncing between her two sisters’ homes, praying for a miracle and waiting faithfully for the day she can finally go home.
Her miracle came in July courtesy of a partnership between The United Methodist Church and Race2Rebuild, which linked up with other groups to hold a major repair day. The work was performed by UMC disaster recovery volunteers with a team of 10 athletes July 9; the athletes then raced the XTERRA Harbison Trail Run the next morning, July 10. United Methodist Volunteers in Mission teams are working now to finish the rest of the repairs.
“I’m ready!” Taylor said, grinning as she scanned her property two days before the repair day, noting the first thing she wants to do when she gets in her home is relax in her own bed with her own television set. “And one thing I’m going to do right away is thank God and praise Him—He doesn’t ever let me down. I’ve just got to be patient and wait on Him.
“He always comes through, but He does it on His time.”
Taylor is one of two Columbia homeowners helped by the Race2Rebuild event that weekend. The other homeowner—known as Ms. Betty—was helped by a team of 10 athletes along with the nonprofit disaster response group SBP (formerly known as the St. Bernard Project).
Race2Rebuild formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to bring a national team of volunteer athletes to raise private funds and provide hands-on home building to support projects across the country and around the world.
Race2Rebuild Vice President Kathryn Harvey, a New Yorker whose home church is Trinity UMC, Spartanburg, said the opportunity to come to her native state for a Race2Rebuild effort was extremely gratifying and a chance to come “full circle.”
“You’re helping people get back in their homes, and at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s all about,” Harvey said.
The fundraising is all done by the athletes, and all proceeds go to their rebuild partners, such as the UMC, who oversee the work and manage its completion. Harvey said she was heartened to learn Trinity UMC members raised a special $1,000 gift for the rebuild weekend.
“I’m a social worker, so helping people in need is what I'm drawn to,” said Ashely McCullough, an athlete from Atlanta who helped with the rebuild. She said being part of the team is exciting and rewarding.
Grayson Hopp, of the Columbia Regional Sports Council, helped organize and promote the XTERRA Trail Run. She said the opportunity to combine a race with a rebuild was a perfect fit and put a much-needed spotlight on flood recovery.
“It feels completely awesome to be a part of this and help get the word out,” she said.
The UMC’s Matt Brodie said the athletes did flooring, insulation and Sheetrock work, and UMVIM teams are now busy doing their part to get Taylor back home as quickly as possible.
“The United Methodist Church has a reputation of being an organization that stays in the disaster until the end, and we are entering a phase where people are starting to forget about the fact that there are still people who are displaced from the flood,” he said. “It’s great working with another national organization to help remind people there is still need and there are still people who are trying to get back to a normal life.”
As for Taylor, she feels “really happy” and blessed beyond measure.
“I moved in that house in 1974 and raised my three daughters and two boys and my grandkids there,” Taylor said. “I’m ready.”
For more on UMCSC disaster response, including how to help with the ongoing flood recovery effort, visit www.umcsc.org/screcovery. For more on Race2Rebuild, visit www.race2rebuild.org.
By Jessica Brodie