‘Neighbors United’ behind residents in need

Published 8:00 am Saturday, July 7, 2018

Saluda organization to host fundraiser for local storm victims

SALUDA — An event once intended to raise money for one of Saluda’s most treasured fixtures will now focus on helping something even more valuable — local families in need.

Later this month, members of the Saluda Historic Depot board will team with Linda and Bob Whitaker of Saluda’s The Party Place & Event Center to host a fundraiser for victims of May’s Warrior Mountain mudslides and heavy rainstorms, which were responsible for killing three people and damaging nearly 60 Polk County homes. The event — which organizers are calling “Neighbors United — Polk County Storm Relief” — will take place from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, July 21, at the Party Place & Event Center, 221 Friendship Church Road, Saluda.

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The fundraiser will feature a ‘60s theme, with attendees invited to dress up in decade-appropriate apparel. Guests will have the chance to enjoy dinner, a cash bar, a silent auction, a talent show and more.

All proceeds will go toward NC Baptist Men, a division of Baptists on Mission that has set up a fund to help nearly 60 local families recover from damage inflicted to their properties during the spring natural disasters.

Members of the Saluda Historic Depot board originally announced the July event as a “rock and roll” dance and dinner party that would raise money for the mortgage payoff for the downtown structure, which currently serves as a museum depicting the history of the famous Saluda Grade railway.

That all changed in the aftermath of the May 18 calamity, when a series of mudslides on Warrior Mountain — caused by the heavy rains that had pelted the region — wreaked havoc and destruction to residents living along U.S. 176 and the surrounding area between Tryon and Saluda — including Tryon’s Patricia Case, who died after being caught in a landslide that struck her and her husband’s home.

More than a week after the devastating incident, tragedy struck once again on May 28, as two South Carolina TV news journalists — Michael William McCormick and Phillip Aaron Smeltzer — died after a tree struck their vehicle while they were covering another heavy rainstorm on U.S. 176.

A few days after the first incident on May 18, Judy Ward, chair of the historic depot board, reached out to the other members to suggest they turn the focus of their July fundraiser from supporting the structure to supporting their neighbors in their time of need.

“We know these people,” said Cathy Jackson, vice chair of the depot board and one of the organizers of the fundraiser. “They do business in the towns they visit. You have to take care of your community.”

The board then turned to the Whitakers for assistance, with the couple more than willing to donate the event center for the event, Jackson said. In addition, the band set to perform during the fundraiser, the Super ‘60s Band, offered their services at a reduced rate.

As a result, the organizers could now offer tickets to the event at half their original price. The board also doubled the amount of tickets available, up to 200, Jackson said.

“We want to draw as many [guests] as we can,” she said.

In addition to the live music, dancing, food and silent auction — which will consist of items donated by various Saluda businesses — the fundraiser will host a “Saluda’s Got Talent” competition from 5 to 6 p.m. Guests will have the chance to help judges select the winners of the contest during the event.

Tickets for the fundraiser are available at the Saluda Historic Depot, Saluda Outfitters and Saluda Truck Plaza, as well as online at SaludaHistoricDepot.com.

“[The event is] a great opportunity to step up and help out, have fun, and enjoy some good food and fellowship for a good cause,” Jackson said.