IN volunteers pitch-in as water drops

As clean-up begins, faith-based leaders help tenants who were displaced by floods.

BY BOND BRUNGARD | TERRE HAUTE, IN | June 14, 2008


The White River crested next to the small town of Elnora, Indiana on June 10. While many homes were saved by sandbags, others succumbed to the flood waters.
Credit: DNN/Sharon Dunten

Strong currents and deep water flooded onto rural roads outside of Worthington, Indiana.
Credit: DNN/Sharon Dunten

Members of a United Church of Christ congregation here have spent the week helping others.

After nearly a foot of rain fell on parts of southern Indiana June 8 and 9, church members have been working to try and save three homes that were damaged by the rising water.

Church volunteers will disinfect the houses, pull back the top flooring and attempt to dry the sub-flooring to prevent any long-term damage.

“We just want to get the water out before it gets moldy and the house has to come down,” the Rev. Carly Stucklensather explained.

While homeowners are trying to save their homes, Stucklensather is also helping displaced renters whose landlords have not responded to the timely needs of their tenants.

Terre Haute is located in Vigo County, one of 22 along with Bartholomew, Daviess, Decatur, Franklin, Henry, Jackson, Jennings, Randolph, Ripley, Rush, Sullivan, Union, Wayne Brown, Clay, Greene, Johnson, Monroe, Morgan, Owen, Shelby, and Vermillion counties that Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an emergency declaration for to get more federal and state assistance.

Stephen Gray, the conference minister for the The Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ, said initial damage assessments were completed Wednesday, June 11, for farms and residences in some areas. A meeting in July will then be conducted with national church leaders and individual congregations to help determine further needs.

“The next step to respond in a way that’s most helpful,” said Gray.

David Wagler, an Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteer who attends a small Mennonite church in Bean Blossom, Indiana, asked “Can MDS help?” in response to the surging flood waters that have encapsulated huge parts of Indiana and destroyed 50 homes in a nearby community.

“It is going to be hard to begin and sustain a response to what all has to be done,” he explained. Wagler, who by trade is a construction excavator, made a commitment to help by providing the use of his 10 employees and 5 dump trucks.

MDS volunteers and local church leaders from the Salvation Army and New Life church met to plan how to facilitate a response to those affected by the floods. “I’ve always been wondering how we can get our little community involved in the needs around us instead of having to go all the way to Newton, Texas, like we did last year, which prompted me to think locally. Now here we have a disaster in our own backyard,” said Wagler.

Chris Brady, the emergency services coordinator for the Tippecanoe County chapter of the American Red Cross in Lafayette, said she sent a small team to help in the southern part of the state. A nurse, to help in a shelter, damage assessment personnel and a client services representative, to help individuals with food and shelter, are now helping those in need.

And about 350 Army National Guardsmen, marines and sailors, were sent to Elnora, on the White River, to help with sandbagging.

Becky Cook-Huff, an administrative assistant in the Columbus District of The United Methodist Church, was at work this week. She lives in Franklin, in Johnson County, about 20 miles north of Columbus.

“Columbus,” she said, of the weekend past, “you could not get in or out of.”

Businesses and residences in Columbus were sitting under nine feet of water before it started receding. In Franklin, Cook-Huff said the high water did things like pick up parked cars and moved them to a baseball diamond but nothing like in the town where she works.

The cleanup is ready to getting started and the United Methodist Church’s Columbia District is making cleanup kits available. Those kits contain a five-gallon bucket, sponges, soap and disinfectant.

Keith Chanley, who is the coordinator for disaster response for the United Methodist Church’s Columbus District, said assessments are underway as volunteers start to get to work.

Eventually, Chanley said he expects the call to go to construction teams, needed to go out and help with drywall and other forms of reconstruction for those needing long-term assistance.

“We’ll have to wait and see on that,” he said.

Tammy Fields lives in Hope, Indiana, about 12 miles north of Columbus, where she works as an administrative assistant at the First United Methodist Church.

In Hope, water was spilling over the dam at Schaefer Lake, she said. And when the small streams started overflow there, travel was hampered by the rising water.

“There several small bridges that were washed away,” she said.


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