Selfless givers across the city have worked together to donate thousands of dollars to those affected by the recent hurricanes in Conway, South Carolina.
In less than two weeks, more than $15,000 has been raised throughout Conway, Arkansas to donate to community members living in the sister city on the east coast.
“The City of Conway [South Carolina] has been overwhelmed with the support it's received near and far after the devastation we've felt from Hurricane Florence,” Taylor Newell, public information officer for the City of Conway, South Carolina, said. “Our mayor has said she has always wanted to visit Conway, Arkansas, and the hospitality we've felt from that community may be her reason to do just that.”
The South Carolina resident said they were honored to have people in Arkansas caring about what's happening there.
“We are sister cities, and we are both #ConwayStrong,” Newell said. “Any and all donations here are going to help people in our community rebuild their lives. We experienced damage to around 360 homes from the storm, and we still have hundreds of people who are not in their homes yet.”
The effort, branded Conway Helping Conway, started through the hopes of a Conway Christian student, Jacob Bowman, to aid in those who needed it.
Originally, Bowman planned for the initiative to be within the school, but after taking the idea to president Jason Carson, the duo decided to try and expand the drive and get the whole city involved.
After a meeting with Mayor Bart Castleberry, Conway School District, St. Joseph Schools, the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, Conway Regional Medical Center and more, the plan was set into action and the town jumped on board.
“It has been great to see the community come together and help with this cause,” Bowman said.
Seeing everyone pitch in has been an “amazing experience,” the 17-year-old said.
“I have not heard a negative word about this project and that has been great,” Bowman said. “The overall positivity and want to help our fellow man is truly a great feeling.”
He said Conway Christian students raised $1,000 with the coin drive.
Conway Public Schools Communication Specialist Heather Kendrick said the district’s campuses came up with varying ways to raise the money including Caps for Coins at Carolyn Lewis, which brought in $900 in coins the first day, and other ideas.
In total, students and more in the district raised $4,624.38.
“We have had a really wonderful response,” Kendrick said. “It’s been very encouraging to see how quickly and enthusiastically the students, parents and staff have responded to the needs of our neighbors in Conway, South Carolina.”
She said every school took the opportunity to raise awareness about how important it is to help others.
“What a great lesson to teach our students,” Kendrick said.
St. Joseph also jumped on board, raising a total of $542.
Head of school and high school principal Diane Wolfe said they asked students to bring $1 to school on a Thursday to donate toward the cause and, in turn, were allowed to wear jeans and a school T-Shirt instead of their school uniforms, a “shoe in,” way to get them involved.
“I was all on board because I knew this was something the students would be all on board with,” she said.
Wolfe said a large part of their school philosophy is about giving back to the community and those outside that need it; she said seeing almost every student take to the cause was validating to her and let her know they get what being a good citizen is about.
Often times as a society, Wolfe said, youth are looked at through a negative lens, “but this generation has got some great kids,” who are civil minded and socially aware and she’s proud of what they accomplished through the fundraiser.
In addition, the Conway chamber’s chief operating officer Ed Linck said they gave $2,500 to South Carolina’s to help with operations and Conway Regional Medical Center donated $5,000 to Conway Medical Center in South Carolina as well.
“We have lived [and] worked through many natural disaster crisis events and have some level of understanding of what their team is going through,” CRMC’s Lori Ross said, adding they are also partnering with the hospital in additional ways to help them raise money.
Harley Seprish, with the Conway, South Carolina’s chamber, said they are appreciative for what our city has done for theirs.
“It’s just heartwarming to know there’s still good people in the world,” she said.
When the Log Cabin Democrat spoke with Seprish on Friday, she said the city and its community members were doing a lot better, slowly working through what was destroyed, ripping carpet out and processing what had happened.
Conway, Seprish said, wasn’t directly impacted by Hurricane Florence other than high winds, but what truly caused issues was the damage it caused North Carolina; as a result, the water that had collected flowed down to their area and caused major flooding.
“At first, we thought, ‘Oh, we’re ok,’ and then a week later we got hit pretty hard,” she said.
Seprish said at this point, residents were just now starting to rebuild … then Hurricane Michael started and the city got anxious and nervous about what might come after.
“We really don’t need [more water],” she said. “We’re on edge definitely. We’re just hoping and praying and crossing our fingers that we don’t get it.”
This is not the first time the town of close to 23,000 has dealt with this type of weather event.
In 2016, Seprish said Hurricane Matthew hit them hard, one of the worst in years but meteorologists said it wouldn’t happen again for a long time.
“When this one came, we really weren’t ready,” she said.
Despite the circumstances though, Seprish said she’s never seen her town, where she was born and raised, stronger.
“I’ve never seen my community so united,” she said. “I would say our community is more one than it’s ever been at this point.”
To donate to Conway Helping Conway, click here.