Mt. Pleasant schools collect supplies for storm-torn St. Croix
Patty Biggerstaff teaches preschool at Palmetto Christian Academy, and her workload has been busier than normal this week.
She's been working around the clock to pack boxes full of hurricane relief supplies to ship to St. Croix.
"We're just trying to make the community aware of their situation and their need for supplies," she said.
It's a mission that hits home, though.
Her daughter moved to St. Croix five years ago and was there when Hurricane Maria hit the island.
"That whole night, when it was hitting St. Croix, I stayed up the whole night watching the news," she said. "I was desperate to hear from her. I became more and more anxious desperate, and she finally called me about four hours after the storm passed and we were able to talk. First we cried."
Biggerstaff talked about the struggles her daughter, Megan, was faced trying to find food and water since the storm. She said the island remains under a curfew, and people are only allowed four hours a day to go out into town.
"They have to pick whether they want to get food one day, water the next, or gas," she said. "I just want to make sure she's safe, and that's been hard here in Charleston with my daughter that far away and I can't do anything for her."
She told her colleagues at PCA about her daughter's situation, and a mother's mission quickly grew into a full-blown community effort to help hundreds of families thousands of miles away.
"It's been a whirlwind," she said of the collection effort that just started three days ago and has already filled a large room at East Cooper Baptist Church. "We've had people from Alaska donate to us through Amazon that we've included in this shipment. Just people that know about it and care about it."
Sharon Basha, the director of PCA's preschool program, said she is overwhelmed by the community response.
"For those of us who lived through Hugo and know the desperate situation we were in, we understand what these people are going through," Basha said. "You want to go there. You want to jump on a ship and help disperse and go do things, but you're three days away by a ship so you can't. So you pick a box, pray over it with love and ask God to help them. Whoever touches this box will be blessed by it."
Students at PCA have helped pack more than 200 boxes that are filled with everything from food and water to household supplies.
The boxes were packed onto a tractor trailer that will be driven to Miami on Wednesday.
The pallets of boxes will then be loaded onto a ship headed for St. Croix. They are expected to arrive by Sunday.
"I can just envision a family receiving this box and being excited. Food, diapers, things that I need," said Basha. "I remember how much a cup of ice meant to be after Hugo that I can just envision them being thankful."
Basha and Biggerstaff could not have collected as many boxes of supplies as they did without the help of the community and individual donors.
The Wando High School Choral Program also collected supplies, and Biggerstaff said a Mt. Pleasant family paid for the shipping costs.