Flood Recovery Group Reports Community Still Reeling
By Rick Hiduk
Kay Johnson and Carol Hatton of Loaves and Fishes Ministries in Wyalusing were gracious when they accepted a donation from members of the Wyalusing Valley High School (WVHS) chorus on Dec. 1, but they also related to the students that the struggles of families in parts of the school district hard hit by September flooding are ongoing. They are concerned about crucial needs that have not yet been met as winter sets in.
“Some are OK and handling needs themselves. They just need a little help in the form of encouragement. But we also have families in the area who are still cooking with hot plates because they don’t have enough of their homes completed to get appliances in yet,” said Hatton, who acknowledged that WVHS students were an integral part of the cleanup effort from the start. “They have all been touched by it, if it wasn’t their own family that was flooded. Many of these same teenagers made themselves available to go to homes and businesses to shovel and clean.”
Hatton and Johnson agreed that the $800 given to Loaves and Fishes by the chorus members was not only a substantial contribution but also a timely reminder that the recovery efforts are by no means complete just because most of the businesses in the area have reopened.
“I told them that it meant so much to know that somebody still cares,” Johnson remarked afterward, “because a lot of people have already forgotten about it already.”
Johnson reminded the chorus members that some people lost everything, including all of their family photos and personal mementos. “Even though it has been almost three months, some of these people don’t even have working furnaces yet. We’re working with one family that just got a toilet and a tub, and there are no walls yet to their bathroom,” she stated. “We get up in the morning and take a shower without thinking about it, and some of these people are just starting to feel a sense of normalcy.”
Loaves and Fishes Ministries spearheaded an effort two months ago to provide residents of Terry Township, Sugar Run, Quicks Bend, and Laceyville with supplies and services that they were not getting through FEMA and other government agencies. Their efforts were impeded at first, Hatton related, because many of the people whom they suspected needed additional assistance were reluctant to reach out. “They’re proud people,” Hatton remarked, noting that the organization monitored a number of families whose needs were apparent but who had not requested assistance. “When the mold started growing, and they had exhausted what little money they had received, we were able to give them some help.”
In addition to covering the costs of some repair bills and purchasing items such as fuel tanks and refrigerators, the agency has brought in teams of volunteers through a Presbyterian Church-based organization to help hang sheetrock, do plastering, and conduct other repairs. Johnson suggested that a crew from Syracuse that was expected to arrive on Dec. 3 might be able to be split to work on two homes.
She and Hatton described the past three months as a learning experience, and they lamented that the organization can’t address the needs of more people in outlying areas. With limited core members and a limited budget, it seemed most efficient to concentrate on the communities that are also part of the Wyalusing Area School District.
“We were stretching what we had available, and we really don’t have the resources to help everyone,” said Hatton, who added that local businesses and individuals have been “incredibly generous” with donations that include appliances that are stored in a barn for flood victims to access as their homes are readied.
Loaves and Fishes Ministries established a special account to handle donations and distribution of funds as they identify needs. One of the primary concerns of the organization right now is to make sure that people who are living in their flooded homes have a safe heating source, and the efforts of the WVHS chorus members will aid in that cause. Johnson was also excited to learn that several students are waiting for approval to organize additional work crews for the community service projects required for graduation.
In the meantime, readers who would like to help Loaves and Fishes Ministries with their efforts may call 570-746-9935 or send contributions to PO Box 368, Wyalusing, PA 18853.