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Virginia plans 2-year recovery

BY HEATHER MOYER | Franklin, VA | July 19, 2000

Virginia is one of the states that saw most of Hurricane Floyd's fury back in September 1999. While the emergency needs have been met, the disaster relief agencies have entered

the long-range recovery phase now, said Franklin Presbyterian Church Pastor Jim Lambeth.

Franklin was one of the hardest hit cities in Virginia, with over 21 inches of rain being dropped by the hurricane in a matter of two days. Lambeth said there's still 50 families

living in the trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "We're trying to get people back into permanent housing," said Lambeth.

Lambeth said they've had work crews coming in from all over the country to assist in home reconstruction. "We've had hundreds and hundreds of volunteers from all different

denominations, it's quite amazing," he said. "It's one of the wonderful parts of it, all the people I've met while rebuilding houses." Recently the number of volunteers has been

dropping off, and Lambeth added that those in the skilled trades are hard to come by as well.

Virginia United Methodist Disaster Relief (VUMDR) is stating its need for volunteers in the area as well, especially those with plumbing, electrical, and carpentry skills. VUMDR's

focus has been on rebuilding the homes damaged by the flooding from the hurricane. "We just recently figured that the cleanup in the region will take about two years, and

we're committed to being here for the whole two years," said Frank Jennings, director of the VUMDR team in Virginia.

Jennings estimates about 85 to 95 percent of the 400 families registered with VUMDR have received some sort of relief from the organization, whether it was food, shelter, or

home reconstruction. VUMDR is still seeking monetary donations along with donations of new or like-new appliances and housewarming items.

The Blackwater Baptist Association (BBA) in Franklin is in need of donations to help with their disaster relief services, too. "We have a large need for donations of money or

specific building supplies," said Susan Kurfees, BBA's office coordinator. The organization has been coordinating reconstruction volunteers from all the area and the country, too.

The BBA is currently working on about 15 different homes in varying stages of the reconstruction process. Some are still in need of being completely rebuilt while others only

need a few final touches to be finished. "The survivors are getting tired and frustrated, but they're so grateful to the volunteers helping them," said Kurfees. "It's like we've

become a little family."

Yet Kurfees says many of the damaged homes in the area still haven't been touched yet. "We have 52 families waiting to see if FEMA will buy them out," said Kurfees. "They

think that their rebuilding process may not start until December, so these people are in limbo." Kurfees says many relief organizations don't realize this and she thinks many may

close up before then.

While the local residents are rebuilding, Franklin's business district is also coming back to life, according to Lambeth. Jennings said of the 182 businesses affected, about 73 to 79

are back in place and running.

"It's showing promise of being better than before," said Lambeth.

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