United Methodists Respond to Connellsville Flooding

Mission Coordinator Stephanie Gottschalk talks with church volunteers at the Connellsville Resource Center.



Bill Swan distributed donated cleaning supplies
from the CACM truck .

After more than five inches of rain in two hours caused flash flooding in Connellsville, nearby Bullskin Township and surrounding areas on August 28, 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. About 150 families were affected as their homes, as well as roads and bridges, were damaged. Some homes were slated for demolition after inspections.

Western Pennsylvania Volunteers in Mission Coordinator Stephanie Gottschalk said volunteer teams will be needed beginning September 6. 

"Early Response Team volunteers from Johnstown and Ligonier have been out assessing 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 also present for the Disaster Response Team meeting in Connellsville Friday morning. 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 is 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.  

For this reason, we are putting out a call for volunteers starting Tuesday, September 6, she added. Those who can volunteer should fill out the WPAUMC Request to Volunteer and send to volunteer@wpaumc.org  with your availability. The sheet gives us the information needed to match individual volunteers or teams with a site. Team Leaders or pastors who need team forms can request them from Gottschalk. "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," the VIM coordinator added.  

Volunteers are needed for:

  • help with site assessments (continuing Tuesday)
  • trained Early Response Teams to muck out and gut homes
  • untrained volunteers willing to work with ERTs for muck and gut
  • debris removal (several sites need immediate assistance) 
  • re-building projects (some small projects are ready now, more to come now thru November) 
  • listening and spiritual support as part of all these teams ?

Rev. Bev Spore is coordinating communication with the families and will be matching volunteer teams with the appropriate work sites. Rev. Steve Lamb and congregation are coordinating team support, such as meals.

  • Housing is available at Wesley UMC or Albright UMC for teams who wish to spend the night (there will be access to a shower at each location.)
  • Air mattresses will be available for those who don't have their own to bring.
  • Local congregations will provide a boxed lunch to teams who come to work.  

Specialized Situations Requiring Professionals 

Professionals with equipment and experience who may be willing to volunteer services for the following should contact Stephanie Gottschalk

  • driveway planing and gravel
  • culvert and bridge repair for access to home
  • large debris removal
  • Little League field repair
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 will replenish Cleaning Buckets as needed.
Cleaning buckets always needed for flood relief.

On Friday, Chip Rowan, executive director of Connellsville Ministries, said that although many people want to help, donations of clothes and cleaning products were no longer needed. 

"Probably the best thing is monetary donations," said Rowan. "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."

In an interview with WTAE-TV at a one-stop resource center opened Friday 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." 

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 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. For those who are there today, when 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" "Be There. Be Hope" or simply "everlasting love.

"Please prayerfully consider how you and your church can volunteer, give, or encourage as we share more information on exactly how very soon."

CACM can provide various types of assistance to residents of the Connellsville Area School District. Each request will be treated on a case-by-case basis, but all clients will have to meet organizational and federal guidelines to qualify for crisis assistance. Due to limited funding, CACM is only able to help each household once in a 12-month period. Learn more or donate.

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/Relief-Supplies.

Individuals and congregations are encouraged to pray for those affected by the flooding, as well as responders, and send donations for Conference Disaster Response - Advance Special #DR0000911-to the Conference Treasurer's office at 1204 Freedom Rd., PO Box 5002, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066-0002.

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 9th 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

Those who come to the Connellsville ERT training could spend the night and work Saturday. Fill out the Request to Volunteer to do that. 

The cost is $20. Clearances must be submitted on the day of training. A delay in receiving clearances will delay badging. 


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