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National Restaurant Association - South Carolina restaurants help flood victims

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South Carolina restaurants help flood victims

Restaurateurs in South Carolina are banding together to help their neighbors who have been hit hard by flooding from heavy rains.

In Columbia, the South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association said several restaurant and hotel members have been serving hundreds of meals to displaced residents and first responders as well as donating water, foodstuffs, cleanup equipment and bedding to those who need it.

“It’s really been all hands on deck here,” association spokeswoman Katie Montgomery said. “We’ve been coordinating with our members to help with the cleanup and many of the restaurants are feeding first responders and donating money to the nonprofit Central Carolina Community Foundation, Red Cross and United Way. It’s just awesome to see how our area and industry have responded.”

In addition, distributors Sysco Corp. and U.S. Foods have made donations to area food banks during the disaster.

The biggest problem the area currently faces is the failure of the water system in Richland County, the state’s second-largest county.  As a result, residents and business owners are struggling to find clean water sources.

According to Montgomery, the area has been without clean water for several days so the association has been doing daily outreach, going door-to-door to restaurants to make sure they know the proper safety procedures for operating in an emergency situation.

“We’ve been making sure everyone knows to boil their water before using it and that their ice is unusable,” she said. “Employees have to wash their hands with water that’s already been boiled as well.”

To help ease the situation, Montgomery said SCRLA’s sister organization, the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association, has made arrangements to donate and deliver clean water to restaurants in Columbia who don’t have any.

“The restaurant community has dropped everything to help its neighbors,” she said. “It’s just amazing.”

Bobby Willliams, CEO of Lizard’s Thicket restaurants, has fed hundreds since the flooding began Oct. 3.

“When the storm hit, the water system failed, which compounded the problem,” he said. “We’ve got 14 restaurants and were fortunate to open all of them except two. We’ve been using disposable pans and [dinnerware] to serve whatever we can. We might have fed 300 people today and tomorrow there’ll be more. People are happy to get a hot meal.”

Williams said his restaurants are among a handful open for business, but the ones that are, are all working to provide food for the community.

“Most restaurants here are closed, but where they’re open, everyone is helping,” he said. “We fed the National Guard this morning and we’ll do it again tomorrow and on Sunday. And I told our governor and mayor, who are fabulous, to give my number to anyone who needs food and I’ll feed them. If they call and get in touch, we’ll certainly help them.”

Anyone wishing to join the South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association in making a donation to the Central Carolina Community Foundation can send it to P.O. Box 7577, Columbia, S.C., 29202. All checks should be made out to the foundation.

Pictured top right: Lizard's Thicket is one of the restaurant chains feeding displaced residents, first responders and members of the military

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