Blind man’s plea for help opens wide door to hundreds in need

By: Major Frank Duracher

A phone call from a blind man in Williamsburg County, South Carolina, became the catalyst for literally scores of seniors to receive desperately-needed food boxes for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. A/Captain Tim Scott, Georgetown corps officer, could not have known when he answered the phone, one week into the crisis, that a portal was about to swing open, allowing Salvation Army volunteers and staff to repeatedly respond in the weeks that followed.

“The whole thing began with that phone call,” Captain Tim said, “from this elderly man who needed food in the worst way. Then he told me that he was blind and could not come to us, so I told him that I would bring the food to him.”

Then the captain had a better idea. The man attends one of three senior centers in Williamsburg County, so Captain Tim asked him to contact his center director, who then contacted The Salvation Army.

“When she contacted me, we had an automatic opening to serve 90 senior citizens who are members of her three centers.”

The Army in Georgetown is responsible for the two counties of Georgetown and Williamsburg – and the travel time from one end of Georgetown County to the farthest point in Williamsburg County can take up to three hours.

“Plus, the fact that Williamsburg County is ranked as one of the poorest in the country. There’s a lot of abject poverty there!” he said.

Captains Tim and Melissa Scott, assisted by their daughter Brie, 24, began making nearly daily runs throughout the two counties, as well as overseeing drive-by distribution in front of the corps building in Georgetown proper.

“I really like loading stuff into the cars as the people drive up for a food box,” Brie says. Brie lives in Georgetown and works in a daycare center, but since it is closed, probably into the month of May, she works alongside her parents.

“That can be a good thing and a bad thing,” she said with a chuckle.

Typical food boxes are crammed with non-perishable items: canned fruit and vegetables, cereal, mac and cheese, bags of trail mix and peanut butter, for example.

“But we are really scratching for food resources, since our regular pantry now usually runs bare,” Captain Tim said.

Comparing a major hurricane that hit his South Carolina coastline last summer, the captain fondly recalled two tractor-trailer loads of food that came to him in the days that followed back then.

“Man, I wish I had that now! Getting enough food has been a serious issue.”

Captain Tim does have food donations coming in, but often it seems to be not enough. A large donation from Fresh Market and a food drive conducted by the local YMCA came just in time one Monday.

The captain developed a rotating system to keep the public safe from virus germs that can live on metal objects for a few days.

“My admin building is now a food warehouse. I have the hallway and some rooms that are designated by date,” he said. Food donations coming in on Tuesday, for instance, are stored and labeled in one area; Wednesday’s come-ins are marked in the next room, etc.

“After the fourth day, I pull out (the food with the earliest date) and we can box in preparation for distribution,” he said.