PA warehouse offers relief

Devastating floods hit the Pittsburgh area in September.

BY HEATHER MOYER | SHARPSBURG, Pa. | December 22, 2004

When devastating floods hit the Pittsburgh area in September, employees at the social services agency Network of Hope thought, "How can we help these folks?"

They quickly answered that question by opening several donation warehouses around the city and then registering affected families. The agency, formed by members of the Allison Park Assembly of God Church, already served several communities before the floods hit.

According to Ted Dillenburg, operations manager of the Network of Hope Flood Relief Center, the agency brings together churches with various community resources and helps them network to meet the needs of residents around the region.

After Hurricane Ivan's floods in September, the agency focused on flood relief for the whole area. Dillenberg said once each community had its own recovery team, his agency switched its focus to the borough of Sharpsburg.

"Over 150 families and 70 businesses in Sharpsburg were affected by the flood," explained Dillenberg.

The agency excels at networking, said Dillenburg, noting that relationships with local radio stations, churches and regional businesses helped garner thousands of dollars worth of monetary and material donations. One company, Kitchen World, donated a tractor-trailer load full of kitchenware.

The Flood Relief Center in Sharpsburg is a warehouse full of furniture, kitchen supplies, toys and more. "It actually used to be packed with even more donations than this," said Dillenburg as he walked through the aisles. He estimated that the agency distributed almost $3,000 worth of furniture donations.

He added that because his agency already served the community, its regular registration process was easily adapted for the flood registration process. "Because we were so high-touch with the community early on, we were able to anticipate long-term needs and build trust," he added, noting that the agency's partnership with the local Sharpsburg Family Worship Center is also very beneficial.

But people need more help, he said. The agency's caseworkers are still assessing lingering needs. The town's immediate needs are similar to those around the rest of the flood-affected Pittsburgh boroughs. Homes are not yet dry, and Dillenburg said they still need dehumidifiers. The group also needs monetary donations to continue its work.

By June, Network of Hope anticipates the Sharpsburg warehouse looking like a Home Depot. The agency wants it to be full of building supplies so that volunteer contractors and work teams can stop by for what they need before going to the work sites.

Beyond home repairs, Network of Hope has hired a grief counselor and Dillenburg also sees a need for the drug and alcohol counselors they already have on staff. The stress on the flood families is surfacing more as time goes by, he said. "We also want to offer spiritual care if needed," added Dillenburg.

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