By Kaylee Cook
The Founder of the Sylva Shopping Support Facebook page, Elissa “Eli” Hashemi, organized a flood relief drive with the help of fellow Jackson County residents to deliver much-needed supplies to Haywood County.
Portions of Haywood were hit hard by flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred and six people died.
Hashemi made a Facebook post Aug. 30 asking people to donate desperately needed items, such as flashlights, cleaning supplies and non-perishable food. Volunteers loaded the supplies onto trucks donated by the town of Sylva and the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority. Supplies were collected at the closed gas station beside Stanberry Insurance and resulted in truckloads of much-needed resources and supplies.
“I wanted to help and I didn’t want to do it blindly,” Hashemi said. “So, I was on Facebook and I found a church that had a list of supplies needed and I decided to use the group (Sylva Shopping Support) and I made a list of those supplies.”
The supply drive was a large-scale community effort and resulted in truckloads of supplies and scores of volunteers making their way to Haywood, specifically Cruso, which Hashemi referred to as “ground zero.” Hashemi and others made their way through the community to hand out needed supplies to those who didn’t know where to go or couldn’t navigate the damaged roads.
“It dawned on me, there weren’t that many people coming in to take these things out,” Hashemi said. “But all the people on the warehouse side were totally overwhelmed and running out of space. So I said, ‘How about we fill the U-Haul up with the stuff people need and we go find them?’”
The call for help didn’t end after one day. The next day, New Covenant Church needed help delivering hot meals to those in Haywood and Hashemi wanted Jackson County to be there to help. She took her U-Haul that was still loaded with supplies and took the meals from the church and headed out. Afterward, the supply drive made its way to Cruso, which Hashemi said had been hit the hardest.
“When we got there only 10 percent of the houses had been reentered,” Hashemi said. “So, a lot of the clean-up hadn’t even started. But that standing water meant N-95’s, rubber boots and stuff they hadn’t really needed down in Clyde.”
When Hashemi arrived in Haywood with the first truckload of supplies, she was met with the vast efforts of Nylenda and Danny Heatherly, Mallory Fouts and Phyllis Cummings Stockfish.
The Heatherlys had shut down their own business, The Outpost at Bethel, allowing their warehouse to be used as the main headquarters for the relief efforts to operate out of. Mallory Fouts also shut down her business to help the Heatherlys run the warehouse for 18 days and oversaw the supply delivery and distribution, ensuring that everything was organized and ready to be sent out to whoever needed it. Finally, Phyllis Cummings Stockfish headed the entire effort at “ground zero” in Cruso.
Hashemi and the other volunteers asked if they could help and jumped in to see a community coming together after tragedy. The efforts of these individuals were and remain critical to the relief and clean-up efforts in Haywood.
Hashemi wanted the people of Haywood to know that Jackson County was standing behind them and would support them. “When you would talk to someone, no matter what they’d lost, no matter what they didn’t have anymore, no matter who had just died, first of all, they were more concerned about their neighbor,” Hashemi said.
The drive was truly a community effort, made possible by Teri Cole-Smith, Rachel Barnes, Gary Smith, Jake Scott, Bernie Gilchrist and Bernadette Peters and her wife Pat Thomas and all of the hard work they did alongside the volunteer crews and Hashemi during the supply drive and in Cruso.
Hashemi would like to thank Nathan’s Body Shop, Food Lion, Ingles and Walmart, Todd Fisher, Zack Sorrel, Brian Bumgarner, Bobby Morris, Scott Stanberry, Corey Allen Coleman, Jason Queen, Print Haus, Kevin Stanberry, Michelle Connolly Hall, Michael Hall, Quinn Hall and Finnegan Hall, Everything Bagel, Kaleb Xander Lynch and Sheila Coppersmith from Canton.
“As the big crews leave Haywood, Jackson County will be there to help even stronger,” Hashemi said.
Anyone interested in helping the volunteer group can message Hashemi on Facebook for details.
Kaylee Cook is a Sylva Herald intern.