Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Church helps neighbors hit by flood.

By Kathy Hackleman of "The Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News"

Instead of holding a regular Sunday service, about 85 members of Annville (Pa.) Church of the Brethren gathered for a short worship service early Sunday, and then fanned out with mops, shop vacs, and sheer muscle to assist with flood cleanup.

Michael Shearer, who led the worship service in the absence of pastor Jim Beckwith, who has been out of town, noted that while Sunday, Sept. 11, was a day to remember the tragedy of 10 years ago, it was also a day to "pick up our buckets and get to work as many of our next-door neighbors have been affected by this latest tragedy."

On Saturday, church members took the pulse of the congregation and community to find out the areas where the need was the greatest. That's where the volunteers went.

"God is here, working through all who choose to put their faith into action," Shearer added, as he sent the volunteers out into the community.

The church itself suffered significant damage with about 12 inches of water in the basement, and volunteers had been working there since Thursday morning. As some of the volunteers stayed behind to finish cleaning up there, others went to the homes of church members who had flood damage. Still others went to areas where they knew the damage was significant and simply knocked on doors, asking, "Do you need help?"

Several members went to the home of church member Sara Longenecker, where three feet of water inundated her basement. Longenecker has lived in the large, two-story home for 48 years, but last week, the water damage was more severe than any previous storm, including Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Thanks to Longenecker's recommendation, her next-door neighbor, Ruth Boyer, also received assistance through the church.

Boyer, whose basement had never had water in it in the 24 years she has lived there, said water came up through the cement floor until it measured 30 inches deep. Although she found a contractor who pumped the water out and she has had some assistance from family, she had no one to carry her water-soaked furniture up and out until the men from the church arrived.

"I didn't know what I would do until they came," she said. "Their help has been wonderful."

Jen and Tony Betz also are members of the church. Their finished basement had four feet of water in it, destroying nearly everything in their family room, utility room, and two storage rooms. Most of the items were already out of the basement by the time church crews arrived, so they began dismantling soaked interior walls, and disinfecting toys.

Across town, church crews assisted Irene Gingrich, who once babysat for several church members or their children. Water filled Gingrich's finished basement, destroying furniture and appliances, and threatening a lifetime of memories.

Now 86 years old, Gingrich wanted to save as many things as possible, so the crews there boxed up her treasures. After cleaning out her garage, which also had flooded, they sat up tables where they carefully placed items they planned to clean in an effort to save them.

"You don't know how thankful I am," Gingrich exclaimed. "I never expected this many people, and I never thought they would try to save as many things as they are trying to do."

Although many of the recipients of the Annville Church of the Brethren work crews' assistance were members or somehow connected to members, Michael Schroeder simply was in the right place at the right time. On Sunday morning, he was working to clear out his finished basement, which had been filled with water during the height of the storm.

"They just showed up at my door and said 'Can we help' and I said, 'Yes, you may,'" Schroeder said. "The way the entire community has come together is just amazing. We have had neighborhood kids come by and ask how they can help, and some college kids came by on Friday."

Schroeder, who has lived in his house for only a year, called the level of community support "simply stunning."

As for the volunteers, many of whom had already spent three days dealing with their own flooding issues or assisting other friends and family members, why did they spend their "day of rest" assisting others?

Volunteer Terry Alwine succinctly summed it up, "That's what we do."

(Article reprinted with permission. It appeared in "The Lebanon Daily News" on Sept. 12. Find it and photos online at

Source: 9/14/2011 Newsline Special

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