Acts of Kindness: The Faces of Flood Relief
August 18, 2017|
Editor’s Note: Thank you to all who submitted names of individuals and organizations that volunteered in the wake of the 2016 flood. While we could not print the full list, the names submitted by our readers can be found here. Please note that this online list was submitted by our readers and is not a comprehensive list provided by any state, federal or volunteer agencies.
By Samantha Cart
In the wake of the June 2016 flood, thousands of volunteers from across the country poured in with donations, ready to work.
Volunteer West Virginia’s volunteer reception centers in Clay, Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties logged more than 3,900 volunteers, contributing over 56,094 service hours, and this is just a small glimpse into the number of volunteers and hours of service amassed in the Mountain State over the past year.
West Virginia Executive (WVE) asked its readers to provide the names of stand-out organizations that went above and beyond to help affected families get back on their feet, and the response was overwhelming—a true testament of the Mountaineer spirit. From these submissions, WVE chose to highlight the following eight organizations from around the country to say thank you.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable posts on social media during the days following the flood was the picture of the Duracell truck with the caption, “West Virginia, we’re on our way.”
According to Disaster Response Coordinator Mike Winn, Duracell’s PowerForward disaster relief program has a five-vehicle fleet stationed at four hubs across the U.S. always ready to respond to communities impacted by natural disasters.
The PowerForward team that came to West Virginia last summer from the New Hampshire hub consisted of three members: Will Vaughn, Joe Carter and Winn. The team worked within the impacted communities for four days, providing 13,000 free Duracell batteries as well as personal PowerMat chargers and mobile phone charging via the Rapid Responder. The team positioned the truck at shelters and distribution centers like the Kroger parking lot in Rainelle, Old White Motor Service and Bethesda Church in White Sulphur Springs and Smith’s Foodfair in Clendenin.
“It was truly an honor to be able to serve the residents of West Virginia,” says Winn. “During our time there, we were witness to countless citizens from around the state rallying together in support of one another when they needed it the most. Thank you to all for your help and hospitality. Your resiliency and determination to recover were an inspiration to the Duracell PowerForward team.”
Florida State University and University of Alabama
Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer. This rang true for three well-known men in the weeks following the flood.
After learning of the level of devastation on Mountain State schools, West Virginia natives Nick Saban, head coach of the University of Alabama football team; Jimbo Fisher, head coach of the Florida State University (FSU) football team; and Rick Trickett, assistant coach at FSU, came together in an effort to support West Virginia’s middle and high school football programs.
“Football was such an important part of my childhood in West Virginia, and to see the devastation the flooding caused and how it threatened so many high school football teams—we wanted to find a way to help,” says Saban.
Both Saban and Fisher asked high schools in their respective states to donate one full football uniform, including pads, helmets and practice jerseys, by July 25, 2016, so they could be taken to West Virginia in time for summer practices. Herbert Hoover High School, Richwood High School and Richwood Middle School were all damaged beyond repair, and students were forced to relocate to other facilities and portable classrooms, making the promise of a successful fall football season seem out of reach.
“As part of the healing process when tragedies happen, I think athletics are a big part of that,” says Fisher. “For those families to be able to go out there for three or four hours on a Friday night and just relax and watch their kids play and know that everything’s going to be all right eventually—I think that’s very important.”
Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association
In the wake of the flood, the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association (KCHA) set out to provide immediate emergency care to West Virginia’s most vulnerable—the beloved household pets affected by disaster.
The KCHA set up at the emergency base right off the Clendenin exit, and staff and volunteers were able to treat more than 2,200 animals and deliver 9,000 pounds of pet food.
“What we did ranged from treating animals on-site to going door to door administering vaccines,” says Jessie Shafer, director of development for the KCHA. “We boarded animals free of charge while people rebuilt their homes. When people don’t know how they’re going to feed their kids, they don’t need to worry about how they’re going to feed the family pet. We had the resources and the ability to take care of these animals, so that’s what we did.”
For the KCHA, the flood had a lasting impact. Inspired by the volunteer spirit of West Virginians and those pouring in from around the country, Shafer wrote a grant for $240,000 to buy a mobile unit for the organization, and in November 2016, the KCHA was awarded the entire amount by the Petco Foundation.
The mobile unit, which will be called the Careavan, will be operational this fall and will allow the KCHA to better respond to disaster situations, hold adoption events and spay, neuter and vaccinate animals in local communities.
Mennonite Disaster Service
When the flood hit in June 2016, the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) already had a strong presence in West Virginia. In response to several flooding events in the spring of 2015, MDS began reconstructing private bridges in Southern West Virginia in partnership with a Pennsylvania-based engineering company. Since 2015, MDS has repaired or rebuilt 33 bridges in West Virginia, and the organization plans to complete 15 additional bridges in Lincoln County by 2018.
MDS, a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches dedicated to disaster response, continues to work on multiple fronts in the counties most affected by the 2016 flooding. To date, more than 1,800 MDS volunteers have built 28 new homes in White Sulphur Springs, helping to move people from the flood plains to more secure areas. MDS also rotates weekly volunteers in and out of their volunteer setup in Lewisburg, where they are rebuilding homes.
When asked what inspired MDS volunteers to come to West Virginia, Executive Director Kevin King had a simple response—the need. “We help our neighbors in times of need,” he says. “West Virginia is also in close proximity to many of our Mennonite volunteers, who come from Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and Pennsylvania—all within a day’s drive—who were calling and asking if MDS was responding. They were motived by the news.”
Mountain Mission was already working alongside Cornerstone Interiors, Hands on WV and Lowes of Kanawha City on its new soup kitchen when the June 2016 flood hit. The collaborative team immediately shifted its focus to flood recovery, and the HOPE Project was born. With the help of West Virginia Senator Glenn Jeffries, owner and president of Cornerstone Interiors, the HOPE Project focuses on donating vital rebuilding supplies to flood victims.
As of June 2017, the project had received $440,551 in donations, none of which was kept for payroll or administrative costs. Coupled with the money Mountain Mission put toward the project, the HOPE Project has donated nearly $1 million to more than 200 families, supplying drywall, flooring, sub-flooring, insulation, electrical supplies and kitchen and bathroom wares. The building supplies, which were sold at cost by Lowes, were donated directly to homeowners or volunteer groups working on rebuilding.
Mountain Mission employees and volunteers also took on the role of case manager for each house they worked on, visiting every location in person. “All we’re doing is taking donated dollars that community members and businesses have been good enough to trust us with and making sure that money goes as far as it can,” says John Roberts, executive director of Mountain Mission. “The flood victims are the real heroes. Through this whole process, people have bragged on us, but these people had to have the will to survive.”
Neighbors Loving Neighbors
The idea for Neighbors Loving Neighbors, now a designated 501(c)(3) organization, surfaced before the water started to rise in West Virginia. When Governor Jim Justice decided to offer free admission to The Greenbrier Classic in 2016, Neighbors Loving Neighbors was formed to collect canned goods donations in lieu of money. However, the organization took on a new and essential role after the flood. This nonprofit is focused on flood recovery, initially offering food, shelter and clothing to those in need and now rebuilding homes in the Greenbrier Valley.
“Neighbors Loving Neighbors has provided building materials, built new homes, repaired homes and purchased homes and mobile homes,” says Habibi Mamone, executive director of The Greenbrier Classic and president of Neighbors Loving Neighbors. “We have partnered with other organizations to build homes and stretch our donated dollars, and 100 percent of the money goes directly to help the flood survivors.”
The organization has contributed to affected parks, restored a high school gym and assisted with the memorial wall in memory of those who lost their lives in White Sulphur Springs, which opened on the one-year anniversary of the flood.
As recovery continues, Neighbors Loving Neighbors continues, recently completing five of 10 planned homes in Richwood and working on four new homes in Clendenin.
Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization based in North Carolina, deployed two disaster relief teams and tractor trailers stocked with tools and emergency supplies to West Virginia on June 27, 2016. The group also supplied a helicopter to help local authorities conduct a preliminary survey of damages and assist with search and rescue efforts in the days following the flood.
The organization’s teams were based in Kanawha and Greenbrier counties, and between the two locations, 1,871 volunteers served a total of 36,532 hours, providing assistance to 338 affected families.
“Our mission is to meet people where they are and remind them that God loves them,” says Luther Harrison, vice president of Samaritan’s Purse North America Ministries. “As we tracked the rainfall in June of last year, we prepared to provide disaster relief to flood victims. We wanted to help West Virginians affected by the flood both physically and spiritually by providing immediate assistance.”
Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers worked alongside families during the cleanup phase, providing tools, equipment and labor to remove moldy furnishings, strip out damaged building materials, sanitize homes, salvage personal possessions and provide care and support to the weary.
The organization continues to work in Greenbrier County, where volunteers are currently building three new homes from the ground up and where they have already repaired nine other houses. To date, Samaritan’s Purse has spent more than $481,000 on cleanup, repair and rebuilding projects in the Mountain State.