When Donnie Beer saw the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy up north, she knew she had to help.
Although the city of Beaufort councilwoman can count on one hand the number of times she has missed council meetings -- she says she is "very aware of my obligation to the people who put me on council" -- Beer also knew the victims and the American Red Cross needed her.
"I don't think I've missed more than four or five council meetings in the last 22 years, and I didn't think one council meeting would hurt, and I could do a little good," she said.
Beer submitted her name as a possible volunteer for Dec. 1-16, and the Red Cross selected her as a government liaison. They flew her to New York, where she spent about a week entering hundreds of handwritten forms into a computer at Red Cross headquarters.
"All that has to be done whether that's what you particularly want to do or not," she said.
Beer also spent a day -- which started at 6:15 a.m. -- assembling cold lunches to give to the hungry. Later that same day, she served hot meals to long lines of Coney Island residents.
"It was mind-boggling," she said. "You could tell there were some people there who had never stood in a line for a meal in their life, and there were other people, well, that's the way they live, but they'd all lost everything they had in life."
With Beer absent during the Dec. 11 City Council meeting, the remaining council members elected to retain her as mayor pro tempore for another term, joking that they were doing so because she was gone.
Beer has volunteered for the local Red Cross for 15 years and is well known to local firefighters for coming out in the middle of the night to help displaced families. On Sept. 11, she was awarded the S.C. State Firefighters Association Citizenship Award, a statewide accolade given annually to one person.
She has assisted the Red Cross with other disasters closer to home, like the fatal Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Air Show Blue Angels jet crash in 2007.
The vast size of Superstorm Sandy and Beer's distance from the devastation blunted the emotional impact of the disaster for her.
However, both the storm and the jet crash had one thing in common, Beer said.
"You feel helpless because there is so much to do and so little you can do," she said.