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NJ town rebuilds after flooding

BY HEATHER MOYER | Bound Brook, NJ | August 9, 2000

Pictures

of flooded streets and ruined storefronts decorate the walls of the "We Will Rebuild" offices in Bound

Brook, NJ, where Collins volunteers.

WWR moved into its storefront office in the heart of Bound Brook about seven months ago. Today the

office is bustling, with its small but determined staff trying to help the town's residents rebuild from the

flood damage caused by Hurricane Floyd back in September 1999.

Bound Brook resident David Bickhardt stopped by the office and described his flood damage. He had

seven feet of water in his living room and was out of his house for five months. "We had just re-furnished

our house," he said. "It's been a nightmare, but we're hanging in there."

Bickhardt's recovery is close to being finished, but there are still some tough reminders for him. "I go out

in my backyard and some of the dirt still smells like the floods," he said, shaking his head. "And I can't go in

my shed because I think and smell September 16 and 17."

Collins spoke of the business district in Bound Brook. The downtown area, where the WWR offices are,

was severely flooded, then a fire wiped out a block of storefronts. She spoke with some sadness of which

businesses had opened again and which had not. "The businesses are picking up very slowly," she said,

glancing out the WWR front windows. The space used to be a dress shop before the flood. "Before I was

involved in this I never would've believed it would take this long to recover," said Collins. "When we had

people in town from Grand Forks, North Dakota, (the site of huge floods in 1997), they said it will take

from three to five years to recover."

The WWR offices were being visited by a volunteer group from the Presbyterian Church on the Hill in

Ocean Township, NJ, for the day. Thirteen people, both youth and adult, drove an hour and a half to help

with various tasks at two older women's houses in town. Some of the group helped clean out the

basements, some helped paint, and some helped rebuild the steps of one woman's front porch. Chuck

Gianakos helped lead the team, which has been doing relief work for about two years now. He thought

that coming to help with the recovery was better than donating money. "We're trying to connect our

youth programs with our worship congregation," said Gianakos. "In that, we're trying to get adults

involved with the youth, we're trying to bridge the gap."

The youth on the trip were excited to help out. "It's a good experience," said 16- year-old Janette Young.

"I'm doing it to help people, I know if I was in this situation I wouldn't want to be forgotten." Young's

friends agreed that it felt good to help someone out.

One of the houses the group was working belonged to 79-year-old Marie Nunno. The water came up to

Nunno's front porch, flooding her basement and some of her first floor. "It came up like an ocean," said

Nunno. "At 2 a.m. the Coast Guard came and banged on my door. I left, but I didn't want to. I lost

everything." She said the flood was the worst she's ever seen.

Nunno commented on about how much the local churches helped her out after the flood. She said all the

local churches as well as WWR helped her immensely. People brought her clothing and food, one church

even brought her Christmas decorations in December as well as a cake on her birthday. Nunno said the

volunteers at her house that day reminded her of her grandchildren. "I appreciate them," she said, smiling

at the volunteers in her yard.

WWR has been helping Nunno along with hundreds of other flood survivors in the past 10 months. The

organization is still trying to get many people who missed out on state aid to get their applications in by

the end of August. WWR helped get the aid deadline postponed after they thought many people hadn't

gotten proper notification of the help available from the state. WWR also assists with the aid to numerous

undocumented residents of Bound Brook. "Many of them were too shy to ask for help, and many thought

if they got aid then some type of action would be taken against them," said Humberto Garcia, a WWR

volunteer who works mainly with the undocumented community in the town.

The staff of WWR work long hours and seem to all love their jobs with the organization. Many of them

cited that their favorite part of the job was seeing the happy reaction on the faces of those who receive

help through WWR.

WWR still needs many volunteers to help them get all the work done. Numerous groups have come this

summer, and hundreds are expected around October, but there is still plenty of reconstruction work to get

done. Gianakos said his volunteer group hopes to keep working with WWR in an area he also agreed still

needed lots of work. "I can't believe how many people forgot about this area," he said.


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