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TX neighbors lend a hand

Last week's rains in north Texas destroyed 17 homes and severely damaged 51 others.

BY HEATHER MOYER | LANCASTER, Texas | August 5, 2004

"The homes we’ve been working in had between three and four feet of water in them."

—Joe Detterman

Last week's drenching rains in north Texas destroyed 17 homes and severely damaged 51 others. This week, churches and other nonprofits are putting their resources together to lend a hand.

The Church of Christ-Belt Line in Lancaster has been bustling with activity since last week, as volunteers distribute food, hygiene kits, and cleanup kits to flood-affected families. Church secretary Wanda Walter said the church is doing everything it can to provide help.

The church is distributing a variety of flood relief items, and Walter said the church is working closely with other social service agencies in town to meet people’s needs. Church of Christ-Belt Line has several hundred members, she said, and they've always been active in disaster relief.

"We have a great community of people willing to help out," said Walter. "It's really a neighbor-to-neighbor thing."

Over 300 homes were affected by last week's flooding, with some parts of southern Dallas County receiving a foot of rain in 24 hours.

The state division of emergency management is still doing damage assessments, according to Dallas County Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator William Eckert. "There are still pockets of standing water around the southern part of the county," he said, adding that the state did declare an emergency for the county after the flood.

The flooding also mobilized several of the Texas Baptist Men's (TBM) cleanup and food trailers. Joe Detterman is leading the McKinney, Texas, cleanup team, which has been onsite for several days. Detterman said they've cleaned out three homes so far, and have many others waiting.

"The homes we’ve been working in had between three and four feet of water in them," he said. "We're having to pull out everything, including the sheetrock, carpet, furniture and insulation."

Detterman said the neighborhood they're working in suffered from very severe flash floods. "The residents said that the water came up very quickly late at night," he explained. "Many didn't have a change to grab anything, they were trying to get out alive."

The area has flooded before, said Detterman, but many people still do not have flood insurance. Most everything left in the homes is either ruined or damaged, including major appliances like refrigerators, ovens, washers and dryers.

Yet thankfully, said Detterman, numerous volunteers are donating their time and effort.

Volunteer teams from many area churches and also Mennonite Disaster Service have assisted the TBM in home cleaning. "The volunteers have all been hardworking and a delight to be with," Detterman said. "It's great to see Christians come together to help these people."

He added that residents are thankful for the tremendous help they're getting. Detterman said he expects his team to be around for several more days, but that could be extended as more requests for help come in. Three other TBM cleanup units are in the area as well.

In addition to the cleanup trailers, several TBM feeding units have been helping the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army prepare and serve hundreds of meals to residents and volunteers in the past week.

The army of volunteers is fantastic, yet more are welcome at any time - especially at Walter's church. "We wish we had more volunteers, but we'll take what we can get right now," she laughed.

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