MARION COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – It's been nearly two years since Hurricane Matthew hit the area and almost 75 percent of the homes in Marion County are still in need of disaster recovery assistance.
Long-term recovery assistance teams have been working in Marion County ever since Matthew, and Habitat for Humanity officials discovered a need for permanent housing for volunteers who will assist when natural disasters come.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to see this project finally come to fruition," executive director Rickey Hardee said.
Hardee explained the Marion County Long Term Recovery approached the agency six months after Matthew, but it's taken until now to become a reality.
"We wish it could have been a lot sooner, that's for sure," Hardee said.
The Marion County Habitat for Humanity will convert an existing 3,000-square-foot building in Mullins into a facility designed to house 40 beds, showers, a kitchen, and a dining area.
On Monday, members of Morningside Baptist Church in Spartunburg began the work.
"That's where my calling is and my passion comes from, wanting to serve others, spread the good news through construction, through helping people through a disaster, through loss, through a hard time," volunteer Steve Kibbe said.
Kibbe was joined by other volunteers who were smiling with each piece of wood they put up.
"You know, we might not actually be able to witness to people directly while we are here, but we are here so when something else happens, those people will be the hands and feet," he said. "We are laying the foundation."
The funding for the $125,000 project comes entirely from grants. Hardee said $90,000 is already taken care of, but they still need more dollars and volunteers.
Hardee said some of the grants thus far came from Eastern Carolina Community Foundation, New Harmoney Presbyterian, Marion County Long Term Recovery and the Marion County Healthcare Foundation.
The South Carolina Disaster Relief helped arrange the volunteers and bought all of the materials for the first week of work.
The next group of volunteers will be 16 students from Villanova University who arrive in October, according to Hardee.
"The county has been primarily reactive to what happened. This dorm will help us be proactive when the next storm hits. It's not a matter of if a storm hits, I think it's just a matter of when," he said.
The disaster relief team dormitory isn't just for hurricane relief. When not in use for disaster recovery groups, Hardee said it will be available for the county to use as a warming shelter in the winter or a cooling shelter in the summer. The American Red Cross can also use it as an emergency shelter as needed.
There will be a formal dedication ceremony once the building is complete, which is expected to be at the end of 2019.