Hurricane victim experiences the “heart of Hartsville”

Christine Wine-Thomas, right, with her mother Teri Wine who had to leave her home in the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma and found open arms and helping hands in Hartsville. Photo Contributed.

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

When Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in early September with a devastating one-two punch, the damage was beyond catastrophic. Hotels and hospitals and homes were utterly destroyed, and power still remains out in some areas, making the cleanup efforts even slower. Many residents have had to leave their homes, not knowing if they will ever be able to return.

Teri Wine is one such resident, having lived in Love City on St. John, USVI for almost 11 years. Luckily, Teri was not on the island when the two Category 5 hurricanes hit; she was in Hartsville, babysitting for her daughter and son-in-law, Chrissie and Joe Thomas.

“Joe’s going to remind me of this every holiday now, about how he saved my life by asking me to babysit a year prior (to the storm),” says Teri.

“My husband and I were going on an anniversary trip and she was going to come up here and stay, but the hurricane wasn’t coming when she left the island, so she didn’t know to pack and prepare for it,” says Chrissie.

Though Teri was able to make arrangements by phone to get her house boarded up, Irma swept over the islands with devastating force, ripping off roofs and flooding pretty much every building on St. John. Teri says her home was destroyed and all of her worldly possessions were lost. The hotel where she worked was also destroyed, so she found herself homeless and jobless, all in one day.

When the initial shock wore off, Teri and Chrissie set to work trying to help survivors on St. John make contact with friends and family through Facebook.

After about a month, Teri was able to visit St. John to recover a few personal items from her home, and she says the beautiful island she remembered was scarcely recognizable.

“It was surreal. Total destruction. There were no leaves on the trees. The landmarks that we knew are gone. It was strikingly different,” says Teri.

Unable to remain on St. John, Teri returned to Hartsville to spend time with family and figure out what to do next. Having packed only a light travel bag and some summer clothes for her babysitting gig, she wasn’t exactly geared up for the impending fall chill, or for the process of searching out a new job in the hospitality industry. That’s when the giving spirit of Hartsville came to the rescue.

A friend of Chrissie’s, Amanda Rhoad, spread the word on Facebook about Teri’s situation and many local businesses and individuals pitched in to donate clothing and personal items to help Teri get back on her feet.

“I’m telling you, this little town is something else. We had people coming up and knocking on the door and just offering to help however they could,” says Teri.

Thanks to businesses like Brandi’s, Raised Down South, Seersucker Gypsy, Westwood BBQ, and churches like McBee Presbyterian and Emmanuel Baptist, Teri has been gifted with everything from a few nice outfits for job interviews to free meals to toiletries and grooming supplies.

“Some of it was just basic, everyday necessities that you take for granted – like a hair dryer!” Teri says. “They were very giving. The whole Hartsville community was so generous and so caring.”

The community also donated over 100 pounds of supplies for Teri to take back to St. John to help her neighbors.

Though Teri is well on her way to pulling her life back together (she’s currently interviewing for work in Florida), there are many other USVI residents who also lost everything.

If you would like to help, please visit Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Foundation, St. John Community Foundation, or St. John Rescue online to learn more.

Author: mrollins

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