Hurricane Matthew battered thousands of buildings and trees and caused widespread power outages and flooding throughout the Lowcountry in the early morning hours of Oct. 8. But the Category 2 storm didn’t dampen the resolve of residents determined to help their neighbors – and complete strangers – who were suffering. Read here about some of these unsung heroes.
Janice and Gene Davis took an elderly woman into their home during Hurricane Matthew and then drove her 800 miles to St. Louis to be reunited with her family.
It’s not something they had to do, or really could afford to do.
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Their 2009 Ford F-150 pickup truck had to have about $1,000 in repairs on the trip. And they could find no motel rooms available on the first night of the venture.
“It’s like we were being tested,” Gene said.
The Davis family has lived in the Squiresgate neighborhood on Hilton Head Island for eight years. Gene owns and operates Davis Auto Painting & Detail on Otter Hole Road. Janice is a non-medical, in-home caregiver for seniors.
Her current client is a recently-widowed 88-year-old Hilton Head Island woman. When the caregiving company Janice works for had to halt service during the evacuation, she faced a quick judgment call.
“Her son was out of the country on business and her daughter-in-law was in Maine,” she said. “I was the only one she had.”
Gene was in on it from the beginning. “Nobody dropped the ball,” he said. “It was just up to us.”
Janice said, “There was no doubt in my mind that she was going with me, whether we left or stayed.”
They decided to stay on the island. They had lived through hurricanes in Florida. And they counted on this one being only a Category 2.
Janice’s client, Jo Scott, slept through the hurricane Friday night on a sofa in their den. When the power went out, Janice lit a candle so she could see to walk around if the trees crashing outside were to wake her.
In the aftermath, with water flooding their street, trees down everywhere and no hospital open, the Davises wanted Jo to get to her son’s home in St. Louis. He was just returning from a business trip to Paris. His wife had been in Maine. They stayed in contact. And Gene and Janice decided to drive to St. Louis rather than go through the ordeal of a flight.
“Unbelievable,” is how Kitty Scott, Jo’s daughter-in-law, put it.
“That’s all I could think when I heard that’s what they were willing to do. That was a great solution. They just did the whole thing out of the goodness of their Christian hearts.”
They couldn’t leave until Gene axed his way out of the driveway, and until the neighbors came together to saw trees out of Squiresgate Road.
They took off on Sunday afternoon with plans to spend the night in Statesboro, Ga., but the motels were full of evacuees. Janice remembered the couple she lived with there while attending Georgia Southern University. They went to the couple’s church on the chance of running into them. They were just leaving the parking lot, and invited the threesome to spend the night at their 1890s farm.
“Jo loved it,” Janice said. “She was a real trouper, too, let me tell you.”
In the morning, they discovered the coil had gone bad on the truck. That cost them most of the day on Monday — and $721 that a friend on the island loaned them by letting them use his credit card number. They spent another night at the farm. Then on Tuesday, a tire had to be replaced before they hit the road. They got all the way to Smyrna, Tenn., where they got a handicap-accessible room. Jo got a good bath and then caught up on reading her Western novels.
On the third day, they arrived in St. Louis, where Kitty’s church group had sent over a meal for the entourage. They also put together all the clothes and necessities Jo would need because she’d packed for only a couple of days.
Kitty wanted the Davises to stay until Hilton Head got back to normal. But the next day they drove 12 hours straight through to Hilton Head.
For Janice, the whole affair was part of her faith. She writes devotionals in books and on Facebook, trying to help people through hardships — perhaps like her own. She lost her mother at age 5 and was subsequently placed in a children’s home, where she felt alone and hopeless.
“I love my client,” she said. “She and I have a lot in common. We like to make things, like arts and crafts. She’s important to me. I couldn’t leave her. My conscience would not let me.”