I've been sitting in my home watching the river in the backyard while my kids play in my room and I work on editing a wedding/deep cleaning the house while photos load. In the last 72 hours we picked them up from school, tried the cheesecake place across from it (and joked about how the parking lot was flooding and too deep to stand in), driven home, and then watched our community fall apart (literally) because of flooding and then immediately start to pull itself back together again.
We stayed up keeping an eye on the river and listening to stories from our family and friends.
Our niece had to be rescued from a fire truck that was stuck in standing water.
A mama friend of mine couldn't get to her toddler and had to walk two miles the next day to get to him with her husband because the roads to him were washed out.
Teachers in our community had to stay in overnight shelters with students whose parents couldn't get back to the schools safely to get them.
Middle school kids had to walk across ladders with the help of firemen to make it safely after their school bus was stranded on the other side of a washed out road.
We watched videos of homes being washed down the river.
Saw people post about missing relatives.
Saw stories of people being rescued, and of people being found deceased.
I've spent too much time on my phone/computer.
I've cried several times.
& I've felt like I can't do enough to help.
There's a lot of people who feel the way I do about wishing they could do more.
72 hours later there are so many places accepting donations (many of which can't take on any more clothes but Haywood Christian Ministry, last I checked, is still able to do so. Clothes are hard because people need to sort and organize them, and most people don't have anywhere to store them even if they need them - so if you've got clothes to spare, hang on to them for right now if possible unless they are new socks and underwear unless you see a place specifically asking for clothes).
Shining Rock Academy & New Covenant Church are the two drop offs closest to me (and we've been to both) and they can't get enough cleaning supplies, hygiene products, diapers, Wal-Mart gift cards, baby wipes, formula, bottled water. My grandma and I made a trip to Shining Rock to donate clothes earlier (I'm not sure if they stopped collecting them or not). I cried after she left because most of what we took on that trip were my grandfather's clothes. Some of you who know me know he passed recently because of COVID. It was hard to see her hand them over...
But last December my grandparents lost everything in a house fire. & one of the things they were most thankful for in that first 72 hours were clean clothes. So she paid it forward, even though she wasn't ready to go through his stuff yet. I could write a whole post on how strong and resilient my grandmother is...
I went back after going through the twins' clothing and putting them in bags with the sizes labeled (I can not recommend this enough it helps the volunteers so much), going through our cabinets and finding things that could be made with "just water" or eaten if someone didn't have power. We had extra unopened things like mayo and syrup that we sent with canned foods, rice, fruit snacks, etc. I would be you have things like that in your cabinet also. Things you got when they were buy one get one that you could easily get again.
Try to send things that don't need to be cooked first - so many people don't have power.
But honestly, anything helps someone. Just nothing perishable.
I always try to send things kids like (like fruit snacks) because I remember what it was like to be a kid who depended on donated food items and we'd get things I didn't really like, but had to eat, and then randomly someone would send us sweet cereal we could eat dry without milk as a snack (since we didn't have milk sometimes) or fruit gummies. There are so many kids without homes to return to right now.
Kids without their favorite snuggle toys.
Kids without their favorite blanket.
My girls would be devastated.
When I read the article about local twins having to go to the shelter with their teacher is when the crying for our community really hit me - because all I could think about were my twins... and how hard that would be for them.
Which is why I asked my friends to help put together backpacks for the kids in the shelters with some coloring supplies and a new snuggle toy. Within 30 minutes my friends/followers had sent enough to do five full backpacks - and we left those at Tuscola High for any kids there. I would 100000% encourage those of you donating things to consider donating a new back pack and a new snuggle toy to the drop off locations - so that families can give them to their kids and also travel back and forth easily with them. If it was me and my girls - that's something that would make them feel better. Wal-mart had some really soft ones.
Another easy thing to do is to to go through your medicine cabinets and bathroom cabinets and grab anything new you haven't opened yet; extra shampoo bottles, new boxes of band-aids, new hand sanitizers, tampons, pads, unopened over the counter medicines like Tylenol, Midol, Kids Motrin, etc. and drop those off. We took ours to New Covenant Church, but most of the drop offs will accept things like that. Haywood County DSS, last I checked, was asking for hygiene products. Canton Middle School was collecting clean towels for the volunteers and people impacted by floods to use for showers (as of Thursday afternoon). I know most Dollar Generals around here sell new towels.
I feel like this blog isn't super organized - but I'm still just trying to figure out how to do more. & I remembered that when the pandemic started and I asked for donations in exchange for allowing access to one of my photo galleries that there was a lot of success with that. So earlier I moved all of the Haywood County images to one folder in that gallery, and thought if people wanted to download their favorite images in exchange for helping out in literally any way, that works for me.
Images like this are in there - because Haywood County is normally one of the most beautiful places in the world - and seeing it with this much destruction is heartbreaking.
Please don't send "me" monetary donations unless you know me personally (and if you do want to do that, I'll continue to buy hygiene supplies, snacks, etc. for Shining Rock and New Covenant Church or whoever near me is asking for them. I'm always wary to include links for where to send them if I don't know the person but I know several churches are collecting them (like New Covenant - select disaster relief as the fund).
Haywood County Schools are also accepting donations online at https://www.hcsf.haywood.k12.nc.us/donate/ and be sure to indicate in the special instructions "for flood relief." These donations will go to the families and schools in need (some teachers lost everything in their classrooms). I trust them, 100%, to make sure they go to our community.
I know that Bethel Baptist Church is one of the churches closest to most of the damage in Cruso/Canton. Their church website is collecting monetary donations here and have also shared a GoFundMe for Bethel Christian Academy. Their school library is a total loss, so please consider going through your books for like new/gently used books you might normally find in a school library (Bethel is for K-12). I don't know when they'll be able to accept them, but it doesn't hurt to gather them now and to reach out to the school in the next week or so.
If you have tools and trucks and equipment the Haywood Help Line will help direct you to places in need of assistance. Posting online doesn't always reach the people who need it most since they may not have access to internet.
You can call from 8-8pm, 828-356-2022.
Drop off some tampons.
Buy a new thing of diapers.
Adult diapers are being asked for often from most drop offs.
Pick up a broom and help clean a neighbor's home back up.
Buy a first responder coffee.
Over tip your servers in Haywood - you don't know if they were impacted and still showed up but you can bet they've been swamped with people for the last few days.
Help in some way, and consider that help permission to download whatever you'd like from this gallery for personal use (like wallpapers on your work computer or print for your home or for a gift for a relative).
You can find that gallery here. I'm not super worried about being credited - but if you want to tag me that would be awesome if you share online. I would like everyone to consider using #HaywoodCountyStrong as a show of solidarity.
Please continue to pray for our community. School opens Monday (in three days) for most students in the area - even though this won't be "fixed" by then.
Some families will still be searching for a safe place to stay.
Some communities won't have clean water or power. It's all really heart breaking, and I hope as regular life returns for some of us that we don't forget it hasn't for all of us and we all continue to help with the same urgency as I've seen everyone helping with the last 48 hours.
This won't be fixed tomorrow, or next week.
& as life returns to normal it will feel like "someone else" is probably helping and you won't need to, but that isn't always the case. For the next several weeks and months local businesses will be recovering, roads and bridges will be being fixed (and once they are some communities will JUST THEN be able to really start cleaning up), and some families won't be back into a permanent home for months.
Set an alarm on your phone for every week for the next few months to check in with that helpline or the churches in the community to ask what they need. Make a mental note to swing by downtown Canton once the roads are open and people are allowed back in and support local businesses in clean up efforts, by buying gift cards from them, shopping with them, and asking them what they need.
Help can be free. Help can be providing labor. Help can be shuttling supplies from one site to a person who needs them. Help can be prayers. Help can be donations. Help can be helping cover the cost of the big stuff if you're financially able to do so.
Some resources I recommend are the following FB pages;
Haywood Flood Help 2021 (the original page I believe)
Shining Rock Classical Academy (only accepting donations until 5pm Friday and then sending them to places hardest hit, won't be accepting over the weekend)
A Google Doc with lots of resources for helping in Haywood County
The Mountaineer has a free article pinned to the top of their FB with more ways to help and is updating it regularly.
Haywood County Strong Gallery (if you missed the link above in the article).
Thank you all for everything you are doing and have done for the community I'm raising the twins in, - Victoria Grace