Volunteers and donations to help the long-term recovery from flooding in the Connellsville area were still needed two months after the April 28 flash flooding that caused an estimated $7.7 million in property damage and affected more than 150 families. Ninety-one homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief approved a $10,000 grant to support immediate relief efforts. Connellsville Area Community Ministries received donations of about $500,000 in the month after the flooding. Some of it went directly to individuals to meet immediate needs.
Connellsville District Superintendent Bill Blair urged congregations to contribute to a special advance fund set up through the Western PA Conference for long-term recovery.
"While Connellsville Area Community Ministries money will go directly to the victims, funds contributed to the advance will go to other needs like tools, materials, and volunteer support for the teams who will be working over the coming months in the flood damaged homes," he said. "UMCOR has already granted funds for part-time staffing to manage this recovery, and our Conference Mission Coordinator (Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk) is working with others to secure further grants for the response office and staff.
Estimates from the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency put personal property damage at $7.7 million.
Volunteer recruitment was stepping up to make homes habitable before severe weather sets in. See volunteer information below.
Most severely affected by flooding were areas of Connellsville and Bullskin Township. In the days following, 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," Gottschalk 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."
n 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.
A Resource Center initially was opened in a school and families came to find out what help was available to them.
"Some were in need of help cleaning up, while others had cleaned up already and needed some help with some small repair projects. Several families had been told that their homes must be demolished," Rev. Gottschalk explained. "There were also several people with health issues or limitations in need of assistance in the midst of a community trying to rebuild roads, bridges, and get schools open."
On October 3, the more permanent Greater Connellsville Flood Recovery Center opened in a storefront at 202 N. Pittsburgh Street. A process for disbursing funds in conjunction with volunteer and material resources was put into place as part of the long-term recovery efforts.
Volunteers can register at www.connellsvillevolunteers.org, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gottschalk asked for continued prayers for the people of Connellsville. "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/