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NY church rebuilds after flood

Building repaired after second flood in two months.


The sounds of hammers hammering and staple-guns stapling echo through the First Baptist Church sanctuary and out into the street. Church members and volunteers are busy putting everything back together after flooding severely damaged the interior of the Mamaroneck church in mid-April.

"This is the second time we've flooded this year, but this was the worst," said church member Chauncey Williams.

The first flood hit in early March, he said, but the latest one sent water into the sanctuary despite the church being elevated 6 to 7 feet.

Soaked pews sit outside the church to dry and piles of soggy carpet and drywall line the front curb. In the weeks since the flood, major progress has been made. Church members installed new maroon carpet in the front and new drywall went up in the back of the church. Williams said they hope to soon be holding services in the church.

Church members have been working non-stop since the flooding to make that happen.

David Green moved to the area the day before the flood. Since then, he has hardly left the church, even sometimes sleeping over.

"I've been working some long hours," Green admitted.

Church members expressed surprise at the latest round of flooding.

"I just said, 'Wow - this is crazy,' when I saw it," said Antony Gray, sitting in the front of the church with Green. "The March flooding was the appetizer, this was the main course."

Volunteer Kathy Klecahill-Epstein came to help First Baptist members when she heard about their plight on the local news.

"I called them up late the Saturday (after the flooding) and then I've been here ever since," she said. "I've done everything from ripping up carpets and more."

She has also been collecting donations for those in need.

Volunteers have come by the church to lend a hand to its members and to hard-hit neighbors along Howard Avenue where the church is located. The neighborhood is next to a stream and almost every house in the small two or three street area around it had some water inside.

"This was the big flood, we had it up to our knees in our homes," said Darlene Green, who lives on Howard Avenue next to First Baptist. She is not related to David Green.

"I had 4 feet on the first floor of my home," added Paulette Francis, who lives just down the street. "We lost everything. It got everything. March only got my basement."

Francis' home was full of activity as workers cleaned up and fixed what they could. Water-damaged furniture and belongings sit piled in the middle of the rooms. The home's interior walls are bare to the studs up to about waist-height.

"We had water in our refrigerator, all my appliances are shot," said Francis, who was forced from her home and was staying in White Plains.

More of her belongings were being dried on a clothesline out back.

Francis and Green pointed out how powerful the flood was, noting that a neighbor's shed now sitting in Francis' backyard had to come up and over a fence before coming to rest behind her house. Green said a boat across the street that was chained down was torn free and floated away.

The two women said they are grateful for volunteers from the local Habitat for Humanity and other organizations who have helped. One team cleaned out Francis' garage.

"Mud was everywhere," she said. "It was just terrible. Everything was contaminated."

Some people said they were worried about more flooding hitting the community this year.

"Lives are at stake here and this is expensive," Klecahill-Epstein said. "Psychologically, this just kills you. Everybody is tired, but we're still working."

Green and Gray agreed. They said one positive that has come from the disaster was how close everyone has gotten during the recovery.

"It's one big family," Green said.

Klecahill-Epstein called the church family her "brothers and sisters now."

The three also agreed that keeping a sense of humor in the situation was important.

"I told the pastor that the next time I go to church, I'll check the weather first," Green said.

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