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Flood recovery continues in NY

Needs remain, but future of Conklin Flood Relief Center in doubt.

BY HEATHER MOYER | CONKLIN, N.Y. | July 10, 2007

Every time the Conklin Flood Relief Center in New York completes repairs on one flood-damage home, it seems like another homeowner comes forward for help.

"We're currently working on about 30 homes," said office manager Carol Cronin. "We keep trying to drop that number down, but as fast as we close off those, another unexpected one comes in. We have been, and continue to be, extremely busy."

Volunteers have repaired 70 homes damaged by severe flooding one year ago in Broome County. Housed at the Conklin Presbyterian Church, the center assists people in and around the hard-hit community southeast of Binghamton. Broome County is located in south-central New York State, directly north of the border with Pennsylvania.

Cronin said volunteer teams were scheduled into August - 80 volunteers were in town this week to lend a hand - but more are always needed. Skilled teams are especially in need, she said.

"We don't have many gutting situations, so you pretty much need at least painting, wall-boarding, mudding and taping skills - and not everybody has that," she said.

Some residents are still living in trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency while others are living in apartments as they either wait for a government buy-out of their homes or for assistance in repairing damages. As more come to the relief center, Cronin said it is difficult to assess how many people are still in need.

As the recovery enters its twelfth month, the emotional strain on residents was becoming worse, she said.

"There are still tons out there who don't know what to do," Cronin explained. "Some haven't come forward because maybe they moved into an apartment and they figured they could walk away from their homes. Then they see how renting an apartment is more expensive than their house, so they revisit fixing the house. They realize they don't have the option of walking away and they want to restore it after all. Some are still on the fence.

"Maybe others couldn't deal with the process or they didn't have the energy to think about it," she said.

She cited one family who had repaired two rooms in their home when the money ran out and they had to come to the relief center.

"Some thought they could do it on their own, but they couldn't," Cronin said. "There are so many different stories. People are still coming out of the woodwork who absolutely still need the help."

Cronin said the residents in limbo were frustrated, but those who get help from the center show an immediate improvement in mood because there is progress.

The future of the relief center - which originally was set up to run for one year - is uncertain after August as funding sources dry up. In addition to financial donations which are needed, furniture and appliances are needed by people who are back in their homes, Cronin said.

Center coordinator Dottie Baer said the agency hoped other Presbyterian churches in its presbytery would contribute more volunteers and that the presbytery itself would find a way to continue funding the recovery.

"The need is huge," Baer said.

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