Recovery groups await flood of cases

Long-term recovery committees in Ohio expect hundreds of cases from floods; volunteers still needed in several areas.

BY HEATHER MOYER | FINDLAY, Ohio | September 21, 2007

August flooding devastated homes in Ottawa and many other communities across eight northern Ohio counties.
Credit: Mike Moore/FEMA

Long-term recovery committees in northern Ohio expect to see hundreds of cases come across their desks as residents cope with last month's severe flooding.

"We were told to estimate that about 10 percent of those registered with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will come to us," said Maile Doyle, chairman of Hancock County's long-term recovery committee. "Right now (FEMA's) around 2,000 registrations, so we'll possibly see 200. We won't know for sure until the dust begins to settle."

The cities of Findlay, Arlington and Bluffton all experienced flood damage. Seven other counties - Putnam, Allen, Hardin, Richland, Crawford, Wyandot and Seneca - received federal disaster declarations.

Putnam County responders expect at least 140 cases. In Crawford County, flooding destroyed more than 60 homes and caused major damage to another 300. Richland County's damage numbers were similar.

The Rev. J.C. Church said flooding hit throughout Crawford County with the cities of Bucyrus, Galion and Crestline the hardest hit.

"It hit everyone - low income, the elderly and more," said Church, chairman of the county's long-term recovery committee.

Much of the cleanup work was complete in those communities and the committee was now training caseworkers for the recovery process that Church said "will be a major, major undertaking."

Church praised county leaders, social service agencies and faith groups for coming together in the flood's aftermath. He was also grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who came to town for cleanup work.

"We had a wonderful response locally and from all over," said Church, who also serves as a chaplain for the City of Bucyrus. "I think it's really helped to restore the faith in people when they see that everyone genuinely cares. People came at their own expense to clean out. It's been very good and very humbling, too."

That sentiment is similar in Hancock, Richland and Putnam counties.

"We even had a group from Hawaii - and we're trying to figure out why someone would leave Hawaii to come to Ohio," laughed Bobby Olashuk of Volunteer Connection in Putnam County.

The Rev. Jim Smith in Shelby, Ohio, said the support for Richland County has been "very gratifying and very moving." He added that it wasn't just those who were willing to shovel out mud from homes, either.

"There were a lot of people who wanted to support those groups by providing lunches or overnight accommodations or tools and sometimes even transportation," said Smith, board president of Shelby Helpline Ministries and pastor of two Presbyterian churches in Shelby and Mansfield.

Representatives from the committees also lauded national disaster response organizations for providing long-term funding as well as advice and guidance on the long-term recovery. Those organizations included Episcopal Relief and Development, Lutheran Disaster Response, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Mennonite Disaster Service, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Church World Service, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Catholic Charities.

Doyle said the expertise provided by the national groups will make the long-term recovery committees successful.

"We know that we are filling a need that in the long run will be very beneficial to people," Doyle said. "We know that we have to look at people who are going to need help because they don't qualify for the initial help from FEMA, the Small Business Administration or insurance."

Olashuk said cleanup teams were still needed in the Putnam County city of Ottawa, especially teams with specialized heavy equipment. Volunteers there have already worked on more than 140 homes doing everything from removing appliances from the basement to ripping out sub-flooring, carpet and drywall. He estimated that volunteers doing the cleanup work save residents about $5,000.

Volunteers were also needed in Shelby, Smith said.

As the cleanup winds down in some counties, recovery committees said monetary donations were the best way to assist those with limited or no recovery options. Olashuk said that gift cards to hardware or home stores were also helpful. One creative way the Crawford County committee was approaching the recovery was by inviting local organizations and churches to adopt a flood-affected family.

Across the impacted counties, committee representatives were ready to help residents rebuild their lives and said the response will go far.

"People are bringing their gifts and talents to the table," Doyle said.

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More links on Flooding


Related Links:

Putnam County Volunteer Connection


Ottawa Flood Web site


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