After devastating storms like Florence, financial assistance from traditional organizations like the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency can take awhile. The process can also be complicated — and that’s if you’re even eligible.
In one Rock Hill mother’s case, financial aid isn’t coming. So she — like many others — is turning to another a source for help that’s becoming more popular: GoFundMe.
It was 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 14, one of the first nights of then-Hurricane Florence in the Charlotte region. Nichole Sanchez was resting up before her night shift and her four kids were getting ready for bed.
“We were all in the house. I had kids in all of the rooms,” Sanchez said. “I was in my room laying down and I heard a crack and a boom.”
Her 9-year-old son came barreling into her room, yelling that the neighbor’s tree had come down on their rental home. She walked out of her room to see the front part of the house and the living room destroyed.
She said the next few hours were a blur as she got her kids safely out of the house.
“My job has put us up in a hotel until Wednesday of next week and then after that, I don’t know,” Sanchez said.
As a renter, Sanchez doesn’t have to pay for repairs. But she does need money for food, a future security deposit, furniture and clothes.
The Red Cross reached out to her immediately, but then she said it told her it wasn’t giving money to people in her area. For temporary help, she said the group pointed her to a homeless shelter and a food bank. She also doesn’t qualify for federal aid because FEMA hasn’t made a disaster declaration for York County.
So, Sanchez made a GoFundMe campaign — like hundreds of other people in the aftermath of Florence.
GoFundMe’s Katherine Cichy said people have raised over $1 million for survivors, and she said the social giving platform is becoming a go-to place to give and receive aid.
“People see things and they want a way to help,” Cichy said. “And we have found that people really come to GoFundMe to do that. One great thing about GoFundMe is that we can get the money to people very quickly when they need it.”
Cichy said it take two to five business days for people to receive money once they’ve made a withdrawal. She also said there’s a team of people at GoFundMe who monitor campaigns to make sure they’re legitimate. But there are scam artists who take advantage of these platforms, and North Carolina officials warn people to be wary.
Sanchez's campaign has seen 120 people donations. Donations have ranged from $20 to $100, and some people have chosen to leave their names while others remain anonymous. Ellis said any amount helps.
So far, Sanchez has raised over half of her $10,000 goal.
“It’s basically just starting us over,” she said.