After having flooding from Hurricane Floyd destroy both her childhood and current homes, Helen Hayes felt she was being tested by God.
"We have been here for 50-something years," she said looking around at the homes on McLeod Street on Tuesday. "We have had floods but not like this. I feel like God is putting us to a test. I have to be a strong person to overcome what's ahead."
Hayes and several family members lived in homes on McLeod Street that were damaged by flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in September.
"This was a disaster, regardless of how it happened, it was a disaster for us," she said. "I feel like this area could be taken care of better by the city.
Her brother, Robert T. Douglas Jr. lived in the childhood home where volunteers were removing molded items.
He said it was hard seeing his belongings piled on the street.
"It is a little problem but we got to bear it. Everyone is busy doing work because of the hurricane," he said. "We have to fight it and get back on our feet."
He thought what they were doing was very nice.
"I will never forget this day. They are beautiful people," Douglas said.
On Tuesday, Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers along with the United Way Association of South Carolina and more than 20 volunteers from Lowe's worked on mucking and gutting three damaged homes.
Lowe's volunteers arrived with a truck filled with tools and equipment donated by the company.
The team was broken into three smaller groups to do the work. Peppers provided a support role to all three teams and spoke with the residents to learn about the way the disaster impacted their lives.
Before work started, a brief meeting was held at Camp Pinehill where Mayor Heath Harpe, Marlboro County School District Superintendent Dr. Gregory McCord, and District 54 House Representative Patricia Moore Henegan talked about the impact Hurricane Florence had on the county.
John-Mark Bell, vice president of operations and 2-1-1 services for United Way Association of South Carolina, noted it wasn't just the damage done to homes but in some cases, people have been out of work and the bills are coming due.
"When the hurricane comes, it is all about survival," he said. "But then real survival, the long-term recovery, is a slow realization," he said.
Henegan said the county suffered horrific disaster from Hurricane Florence.
"In the last five years, we had more storms than I have ever seen in my whole life to hit an area," she said.
Henegan shared stories from before, during and after the storm and how the county came together to help one another.
She had statistics from FEMA where 1,542 individuals have been served with funds of $1,015,689 distributed in the county.
McCord talked about the role education played in emergency, trauma, and disaster.
"Being educated helps us to discern between each of those and what we need to do in the next steps," he said.
He noted how a storm does not see race, income levels, background or history.
"It sees what it sees and destroys accordingly," he said.
Harpe talked about the various storms that have hit the county and Hurricane Matthew opened their eyes.
He added when the flood waters recede in the low lying areas, everybody forgets about it.
Many people with damage, he said, don't have flood insurance or the money for recovery.
"They just go back," he said. "I have seen the inside of some of the houses where there is dirt on the inside."
He thanked groups like AmeriCorps and their help with long-term recovery.
The visit came after Peppers announced in September that he was teaming up with the Foundation of the Carolinas to create the Julius Peppers Hurricane Relief Fund, beginning with his initial donation of $100,000. He challenged his teammates to contribute to long-term recovery in the Carolinas, and Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton stepped up to match Peppers' initial $100,000 donation.
The Panthers reached out to UWASC to help coordinate Peppers' visit with community partners in the state. UWASC teamed up with AmeriCorps SC and Lowe's to organize the day-long event.
Peppers was hosted locally by United Way of Chesterfield County, which also serves Marlboro County.
The event marked the beginning of the AmeriCorps Disaster Response teams arrival in Marlboro County.
The teams are trained crews that can provide support for shelter operations, call centers, volunteer and donation management, muck and gut operations, blue-roof tarping, and debris cleanup, among other services.
The teams will also be in Chesterfield, Dillon, and Marion counties.
AmeriCorps volunteers are staying at Camp Pinehill and will be in the county until Nov. 26.
Kristine Solis, public information officer for the AmeriCorps Disaster Response, explained the muck and gut process.
After homes have been damaged by floods, the team goes in to remove flooring, carpeting, damaged furniture, and appliances.
"We pretty much get the house ready for the rebuild and repair process," she said.
The group will be working in homes throughout the county. Solis said the goal is to work on two to four homes a day in crews of four to six.
In addition to helping with the cleanup, Solis also directs those affected by the flooding to other resources available
If muck and gut services for a home are needed, visit crisiscleanup.org to register or call 1-800-451-1954. Registration will be accepted until Nov. 2.
Solis added those needing the service can call her at 803-738-6312, Kelly Burt at 803-915-9147 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.