When minister Dan Hager heard about the need for shelter for Tidelands Health team members who would be working during historic flooding threatening Georgetown County, he didn’t hesitate to act. Not only did Hager and the Georgetown Church of Christ designate rooms at the church where Tidelands Health team members could sleep – intentionally using rooms without windows for those who would be sleeping during the day – they also made sure to have enough hygiene items and even food on hand. “The people are the church, and some of the people in our church are providers, coders, people who work in administration for Tidelands Health,” Hager said. “So when we became aware of this need, it was incredibly important to us to be here with our community the way Tidelands Health is part of our community. We want to make sure we are helping meet the needs that everybody is encountering with this unprecedented situation.”
Normally, Tidelands Health staff members who work during a disaster “shelter in place” by sleeping at the system’s hospitals. Because floodwaters may require the sewer lift station that supports Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital to be deactivated, however, that wasn’t an option this time. The health system needed to find other sheltering options for those team members who are working to keep the Tidelands Georgetown ER open throughout the flooding. Several churches in Georgetown County have opened their doors with loving arms to help. With rising waters threatening to cut off U.S. 17 – the main access road to both Tidelands Georgetown and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital for many employee partners – churches scrambled to transform their usual classrooms or special event halls into suitable shelters for nurses, physicians and others to sleep. In Georgetown, employee partners have been offered shelter at both the Church of Christ and Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church. In Murrells Inlet, Belin Memorial United Methodist Church has offered housing for Tidelands Health team members who don’t want to risk having their usual commute to Tidelands Waccamaw cut off by rising floodwaters. “This is an emergency, and we’re open to helping as much as we can,” said David Garcia, maintenance supervisor at Belin Memorial.
Classrooms as sleeping quarters
At Georgetown Church of Christ, the classrooms-turned-sleeping quarters have cots ready for up to 10 Tidelands Health team members. Soap and other toiletries are stocked in the shower. And church members have even prepared grab-and-go comfort food meals for their guests — so they will feel the love of a homemade meal. “They’ve got something they can grab,” Hager said,” anything that could be easily accessible but also hit the spot.” Tidelands Health leaders say the churches’ generosity is a testimony to their community commitment and ministry. “It’s amazing,” said Jeremy Stephens, associate vice president of human resources, who organized the sheltering options. “I am blown away by the generosity of the community. It went from, ‘We don’t have anywhere to house folks’ to reaching out to the faith-based organizations and they have just been amazing. You know their congregations are suffering, too, with the floodwaters, but they are worrying about taking care of us. It’s just really special.”