DUBOIS – The response to the large scale flooding, which struck Jefferson and Clearfield counties one month ago, is far from over, announced Jason Bange, executive director of the local American Red Cross, at a press conference Monday at the ARC office in DuBois.
“A lot of individuals, a lot of homes were affected. It’s’ been a very large response effort from the community at-large,” said Bange. He said after flooding struck the two counties, the ARC and its partner agencies were on-the-ground to provide relief.
According to him, the ARC’s disaster workforce responded to the area. The team conducted detailed damage assessments on the homes and determined the number of people who were affected.
The ARC, Bange said, is still working to meet both the emergency and long-term needs of families. He said they have continued to meet with individuals to assess their recovery effort moving forward.
He said to date, the ARC has opened more than 270 cases; provided services to more than 700 people; initiated more than 360 outreach connections; provided 160 health and mental health connections; served more than 1,400 meals in partnership with the Salvation Army; distributed 672 cleanup kits; and mobilized 140 staff and volunteers.
Bange said as the ARC continues its disaster response it anticipates costs to exceed $200,000. He said it will continue to raise funds, so that it can maintain its relief effort. Bange said to date the ARC has raised approximately $80,000 through received and committed contributions.
“We still have a gap there to finish what we’ve already spent on this disaster relief operation,” he said. “As we move forward, we’ll continue to engage our community partners . . . this is not over by any means. We have a long road ahead of us. There are still a lot of people in need of our support.”
The Rev. Tom Carr, a local pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Reynoldsville, works under the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Since the first day of the disaster, he said they have provided 750 cleanup buckets of their own.
Additionally he said they’ve been coordinating volunteers to come in and assist with the cleanup, which in some cases includes tearing out drywall and paneling to alleviate mold. As of Monday, he said they’d responded to 52 homes and will have to return to about half of those for reconstruction. He said they have around 20 homes to respond to during this first phase of the relief effort.
According to Carr, they’ve had 250 volunteers from “far and wide” and representatives of many, different religious organizations and churches. He said these volunteers had put more than 3,000 hours of work so far into area communities.
This week, he said, was the first that they didn’t have any teams of volunteers scheduled to go out at 9 a.m. Monday. He said in part it’s because they are one month removed from the disaster, as well as due to the flooding that’s occurred in and around the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas.
He said volunteers have come from the immediate region, throughout western Pennsylvania, including teams from Cranberry and Bedford and one team from Columbus, OH. He mentioned one gentleman who volunteered from a small town near Fort Hood, TX.
About two weeks ago by happenstance, Carr said the man was traveling to Elmira, NY for his grandmother’s 100th birthday. He camped along the way and stayed at Parker Dam. He wandered into DuBois for supplies and saw a sign for cleanup kits at the First United Methodist Church.
“He had no idea about the flooding,” explained Carr. “He asked what he could do. The pastor told him, ‘we need bodies,’ and he replied, ‘I can give you two days.’ That man worked as hard as anyone for two days. We’re so thankful for him and all the many others who have volunteered their time.”
After the first phase of the flood relief, he said they’ll revisit the homes that need reconstruction and help residents put their lives back together. Before that he said they must wait for the homes to be dried out, which will likely take until late August or early September.
Carr said when that time comes they’ll need volunteers and materials, and any donations would be helpful.
Captain Keith Jache of the Salvation Army in Punxsutawney said they’ve provided food, gift cards, hot meals and clothing items. The Salvation Army, he said, is still providing food items and vouchers for clothing. Jache said they will also be offering “Tools for School,” such as backpacks and school supplies to those affected by the flood.
Mary Brown of Community Connections said her organization has been assisting those experiencing mental health issues as a result of the flood. She said they have an around-the-clock crisis hotline available to those who reside in Clearfield and Jefferson counties. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-341-5040.
Nanci Mattison, director of Catholic Charities Counseling Services in DuBois, said they’ve been helping with replacing cribs and other baby items, children’s clothes, gift cards for food and other small items and mental health counseling sessions. She said anyone still in need of this type of assistance should contact their office at 814-371-4717.
Bange said anyone needing assistance from the local ARC should call 814-371-2750.