Churches reach out

Flood recovery isn't over. In fact, in some ways it's just beginning.

BY HEATHER MOYER | CARNEGIE, Pa. | December 19, 2004



"I'm expecting many more requests for tear-outs this spring, as I think many just rebuilt without letting their homes properly dry."

—Father Paul Sutcliffe


The Rev. Bruce Nordeen has a message for anyone living outside his region: Flood recovery isn't over. In fact, in some ways it's just beginning.

Nordeen, chair of the Greater Chartiers Valley Long-Term Recovery Team (GCVLTRT), said he often hears surprise when mentioning the team's ongoing efforts.

The interfaith group's 20 case managers - working across Carnegie, Heidelburg, Oakdale and Bridgeville - are still assessing homes damaged by major flooding in September.

"We actually need more case managers," Nordeen added.

The flooding, caused by downpours from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan, affected over 500 homes across the team's target communities. The relief process recently switched focus to the long term, said Nordeen.

The Carnegie Area Ministerial Association started the GCVLTRT. According to Father Paul Sutcliffe, pastor of Carnegie's Church of the Atonement, the association's member churches all offered immediate relief after the floods. Those efforts combined with the association's already regular weekly meetings made it the prime organization to lead the recovery effort.

Furnaces are a major need at this point in the process. When the floodwaters hit, many families lost everything in their basements - including furnaces, washers, dryers, freezers, and hot water heaters. Numerous homes saw water on the first floor as well.

Another need is volunteers - especially as the recovery extends into the spring and later. Sutcliffe expressed concern about some of the residents who quickly picked up and fixed their homes. "I'm expecting many more requests for tear-outs this spring, as I think many just rebuilt without letting their homes properly dry."

He also sees the same reactions that Nordeen does regarding ongoing flood work, but he also sees exhaustion setting in. "My perception of this is that people are just getting tired. Early on, it's exciting, but adrenaline only takes you so far. Right now I'm trying to figure out the right way to revive some of my volunteers."

Floodwaters also hit Carnegie's recently revitalized historic business district. Nordeen and Sutcliffe agreed that businesses are having a difficult time repairing flood damages enough to reopen.

Some local business that went undamaged offered what they can to assist the others. The Big Dog Warehouse, a company that sells displays and shelving, is offering discounts to the recovering Carnegie businesses. Big Dog Warehouse owner Larry Ciptak said it is his roots in the area that make him want to help others.

"I grew up around here, so I really support the local businesses."

Ciptak is not only offering the discounts, he also volunteered some of his time to clean out some houses. He said the extent of the damage amazed him. "I had never seen a disaster like this before - it was incredible," Ciptak explained. "You had to see it to believe it."

Later, Ciptak also encouraged some of his fellow area business owners to gather up blankets, cleaning supplies, and space heaters for affected families.

He observed the community spirit across Carnegie was strong then, and he said he hopes it remains.

"I saw a great outpouring of community support after the flood. It seems like in this day and age there's not much of a sense of community anymore, but this was different. It's nice to know community still exists."


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