Fairfield Responds to Disaster

Packed up and ready to head for Clarendon County with relief supplies for flood victims, these Fairfield County volunteers are, standing: Kim and Randy Wilkes; from left: Ash Wilson, John Combs, Ashley Wilson, Erin Holmes, Angie Kelly, Rebekah Coleman, David Hendon, Russell Wilkes and (not pictured) Todd Mattox. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

Packed up and ready to head for Clarendon County with relief supplies for flood victims, these Fairfield County volunteers are, standing: Kim and Randy Wilkes; from left: Ash Wilson, John Combs, Ashley Wilson, Erin Holmes, Angie Kelly, Rebekah Coleman, David Hendon, Russell Wilkes and (not pictured) Todd Mattox. (Photo/Barbara Ball)

WINNSBORO – A Fairfield County caravan bearing food, water and other supplies grew as it traveled last Friday, even gathering volunteers to help alleviate the suffering of families who lost their homes and other possessions in the recent statewide flooding.

It all started when Randy Wilkes and his wife Kim of Ridgeway remembered what Randy and his family had gone through in 1984 when a tornado blew through Winnsboro, leveling their home and destroying their possessions.

“It was bad,” Randy recalls, “and so we knew how these people felt, losing their homes. We decided we’d try to do something to help.”

That something was posting a note on Facebook asking their friends to help fill up their 20-foot trailer with supplies and take them to those affected by the flooding,

“I thought I’d be lucky if we got the trailer half full,” Randy Wilkes later told The Voice.

But responses to the post immediately began pouring in from family, friends and strangers.

“Richard Winn Academy was one of the first to call to say they wanted to make a big donation of water and other supplies, then some guys I know from Rock Hill with a big flatbed truck called to say they were going to join us,” Wilkes said. “Pretty soon we were taking calls and pulling in to Ben Arnold and other donor sites loading up. The 20-foot trailer filled up quickly, and we had to ask Jimmy Ray Douglas to loan us his big yellow box truck. We filled that up and were on our way only 48 hours after the initial Facebook post.”

The caravan not only gathered supplies, but gained volunteers along the way as well. By the time they reached the Wilkes’ home in Ridgeway to regroup and head out, the caravan included two pickup trucks, the yellow box truck, the flatbed filled with cases of water and two packed SUV’s.

“I loaded my front loader on a trailer so we’d have something to unload the pallets with when we got to our destination,” Wilkes said.

That destination, the group decided, would be the hard hit Clarendon County. The caravan pulled out about noon Saturday with 10 or so volunteers, the load of supplies and an American flag blowing in the wind aboard the lead pickup.

But the adventure didn’t end there.

A trip that should have taken about an hour and forty-five minutes turned into almost three hours. The caravan was detoured frequently by road closings and collapsed bridges. After unloading their supplies at a gym in Summerton, the group stayed on another hour using the front loader to help others unload their supplies.

“It was a humbling experience,” Wilkes said, “seeing all that devastation. We were just glad we could help them. We are really thankful to the schools, businesses and all the individuals in Fairfield County who made the donations possible. They helped a lot of people.”