Race2Rebuild Re-Invigorates Volunteers through Running
A Half-Marathon and 5K race took place last weekend at Harbison State Forest to re-ignite support for victims in October's historic flood. Race2Rebuild (R2R) sponsored the race in addition to organizing a rebuilding event the previous day. Around twenty-five R2R runners participated and many volunteered as well at the rebuilding sites in Columbia. Cooper McKim speaks with volunteers, partners, and leaders from Race2Rebuild about why their mission and how they ended up in South Carolina.
Sarah Hartmann, President of Race2Rebuild, says part of the organization's mission is to bring support to a devastated area after attention has waned. It's been nine months since the historic flood, yet struggle continues for thousands of people. Hartmann explains, "by choosing to race in this community, we're bringing back focus, attention, awareness, dollars, volunteer support, and rekindling that rush that we all feel initially... so in some small way we hope to rekindle some of that amazing energy." Since their first project in 2012, Race2Rebuild has partnered with seventeen races all over the country.
"Long term disaster recovery is an endurance event in-and-of itself. It's tiring! It's not pretty."
Hartmann sees a natural parallel between racing and the recovery process. She explains,"long term disaster recovery is an endurance event in-and-of itself. It's tiring! It's not pretty." She says, plus, runners like to be active anyway.
The race is also a way to grab the community's attention in a way that a single rebuilding project might not. Volunteer Captain Joe Messere says, "having a bigger footprint sort of re-engages the community to the fact that there is still work to be done and that it's a long term project." Messere is organizing 15 volunteers in Mrs. Annie Taylor's home in North Columbia. In 90 degree weather, they're taking out dry wall, clearing out debris, and removing insulation. Messere says that when it comes to repairing a home after flooding, removal is key: "We gotta pull out all the old stuff that got wet, anything that's left over and sticking out of the framing. And basically clean slate it so [contractors] can come in and start fresh."
Messere adds one day may not seem like a lot of time to work on a house, but he says it can have a huge impact: "we can accomplish with a crew of volunteers in a one day what a third of that number would take a couple of days to do. So since we have a limited amount of time, if you plan appropriately, and schedule your workload out. You can get a whole lot done."
The homeowner, Mrs. Annie Taylor, is grateful for their help. The house has been gutted on the inside, with none of her possessions remaining. "The flood came down during the night, heavy storm, and it flooded my two bedrooms, the whole ceiling fell, came down on my bed!"
Luckily she wasn't there. Mrs. Taylor explains mold and mildew have all but taken over the walls, "thats why it's gutted. My grandson was trying to get it fixed for me, but then he ran out of money." With all the help she's getting, Mrs. Taylor hopes to return home by the end of the summer - though she's planning to buy some furniture first.
In addition to racing and working on these two homes, Race2Rebuild has raised nearly $10,000 for partner organizations SBP and the South Carolina Conference of United Methodist Church to work ending these two projects.