United Methodists Respond to Connellsville Flooding
UPDATED Sept. 28!!
The United Methodist Committee on Relief has approved a $10,000 grant to support immediate relief efforts in Connellsville and surrounding areas where flash flooding destroyed or severely damaged 91 homes.
Estimates from the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency put personal property damage at $7.7 million.
As assessments of damaged homes were being completed and some debris had been cleared, volunteer recruitment was stepping up to make homes habitable before cold weather sets in. See volunteer information below.
The destruction and damage were caused by flash flooding resulting from more than five inches of rain in two hours on August 28. Most severely affected were areas of Connellsville and Bullskin Township. United Methodists joined with other volunteer response groups and community leaders to meet immediate needs of affected residents and put an early response plan into action.
"Early Response Team volunteers from Johnstown and Ligonier went out to assess homes referred to us by the Red Cross, while Rev. Bev Spore, Rev. Calvin Cook, and I were part of a resource center at Connellsville Middle School," she said. See WTAE New Story
"District Superintendent Bill Blair and Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi were present for the Disaster Response Team meeting in Connellsville on Sept. 2. Rev. Blair did assessments in the afternoon. Over 150 families were affected by water damage, vehicle damage, and storm damage from debris, wind and rain."
The Resource Center remained open on Saturday as families came to find out what help was available to them.
"Some are in need of help cleaning up, while others have cleaned up and already need some help with some small repair projects. Several families have been told that their homes must be demolished," Rev. Gottschalk explained. "There are also several people with health issues or limitations in need of assistance in the midst of a community that has been trying to rebuild roads, bridges, and get schools open."
A call for volunteers went out Sept. 6 and the need is expected to continue for several more months. Volunteers can register at www.connellsvillevolunteers.org, by email to email@example.com.
"We are making a push to respond quickly in the next two months to get as many people in secure housing by winter as possible," Gottschalk added.
The Greater Connellsville Flood Recovery Center was to open Monday, Oct. 3 in a storefront at 202 N. Pittsburgh Street. Chip Rowan, executive director of Connellsville Ministries, said they had raised about $500,000 in direct donations as of Sept. 28. A process for disbursing funds in conjunction with volunteer and material resources will be in place as part of the long-term recovery efforts.
In the days immediately after the flooding, cleaning buckets were available to residents showing identification through Connellsville Area Community Ministries (CACM) or the Salvation Army. The Eastbrook Mission Barn has replenished Cleaning Buckets as needed.
In an interview with WTAE-TV at a one-stop resource center opened Sept. 2 at Connellsville Middle School, Rowan said, "It's been overwhelming actually, both the loss for the people and also the fact that so many people want to help."
"People need to replace a lot of things in their homes, appliances have been damaged, there are homes that need to be replaced actually, so financial assistance would be the best," Rowan said. Rather than sending donations to Community Ministries, he encouraged churches and individuals to donate through the Conference Disaster Response - Advance Special #DR0000911. Gifts can be made online at wpaumc.org/online payments or sent to the Conference Treasurer's office at 1204 Freedom Rd., PO Box 5002, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066-0002.
Gottschalk asked for prayers for the people of Connellsville as many who have been in shock and survival start to try and figure out what to do next. "The UMC will be there for the long-haul and the best thing that we have to offer them is YOU and, through YOU, we offer them encouragement and hope in Christ -- resources of funds, volunteers, and a way through. We offer support all the way through; we do so counting on YOU to be there to help us live up to our reputation of first in, last out," she said.Churches are invited to assemble Cleaning Buckets or provide materials to the Mission Barn or affiliates. Recipes for the cleaning buckets and other kits are available on the Mission Barn webpage wpaumc.org/missionbarn or the UMCOR website at umcor.org/UMCOR/
Individuals and congregations are encouraged to pray for those affected by the flooding, as well as volunteers.
Get trained to volunteer!In a Disaster Response Bulletin on Sept. 3, Gottschalk said:
Remember, Training Helps Us to Act Fast! If you can't respond now, consider getting trained so you could help with the next response. Early Response Team trainings are offered this fall. Cost is $20. Clearances must be submitted on the day of training. Delayed clearances will delay badging. Register online for one of these dates and locations.
- September 9; 9am - 5pm at Wesley UMC in Connellsville, PA
- September 17; 9am - 5pm at First UMC in Kane, PA
- October 8; 9am - 5pm at Zion UMC in Elton/Johnstown area
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