By Bobby Bordelon
“Today you guys are going to help me clean up some flood debris. We had a woman who had five feet of water in her home in 2016 and two feet of water in this flooding event,” explained Kayla McCoy to a group of volunteers from the Lewisburg United Methodist Church on Monday, July 27. “It was never properly cleaned out after 2016 flood, so please, please, please, wear those N-95 respirators.”
After the June 22 storm in Alderson, McCoy, director of the Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee (GGLTRC), is asking for volunteers and donations in order to help at least 85 damaged properties throughout three counties. In one of these homes is Mary Brooks, who lives on the Greenbrier side of Alderson, who was not only impacted by the June flooding, but had remaining damage in the basement from the flood of 2016. This week, however, a local youth group, guided by Lewisburg United Methodist Church Pastor Bev Colombo, was able to lend a hand.
“They’re helping me – all this came out of my basement,” said Brooks, pointing to a huge pile of debris in her driveway. “It’s been a long time getting it cleaned up because of a few situations, but they’re getting it today! So yay! … I’m just happy to get this done. I can’t wait to see when it’s finished – it’s exciting for me to not have to worry about it anymore. It does my heart good to see someone that’s trying to help somebody. … I actually asked God to send someone to help me and look there.”
Before the youth group got started, McCoy thanked the volunteers for their help and explained the potentially daunting day ahead of them.
“Everything’s been taken out of the house and it’s curbside, so the city is going to bring a dump truck and I just need it all to go in the dump truck,” McCoy told the volunteers. “… It’s gonna be hot, it’s gonna be hard work, and I really cannot thank you guys enough for being here because I can’t do this by myself.”
With the foundation and supporting structures solid, Brooks has been able to live in her home since the flooding in 2016, with the basement going mostly unused. Damaged drywall and debris, possibly contaminated with mold, had been previously removed by Brook’s family, friends, and some volunteers and was placed on her lawn and driveway for disposal.
“It used to be a beautiful basement when I got the house,” Brooks said. “After the flood in 1996, the [previous owner] did it, made it pretty, so he could sell the house. Then I got it in 2016 and this past June. I get water all the time in the basement. … I actually had four rooms in the basement, but now there’s two because they got washed out. [Neither flood] knocked the support posts out. They’re just going to finish the basement. [The volunteers] pressure washed it, it’s all clean now. They’re getting ready to seal it. They’re going to repair it. Hopefully after that I’ll get my new pump in and I’ll be in good shape.”
Although the youth group doesn’t have carpentry skills or other ways to repair the home, they were able to help with this essential task. Colombo, who cheerily celebrated her 50th birthday the day before, explained that before coming to Alderson that morning, she told the teenage volunteers about the importance of helping those in your community.
“We’ve been looking at Matthew, where Jesus said this; don’t go to some far off place and make a big dramatic spectacle,” said Colombo. “Just go to your neighborhood, and so we’re following Jesus’s words.”
The teenagers arrived to the home and began moving debris immediately – joined by a town of Alderson crew operating an excavator and dump truck, a majority of the trash was removed in two loads.
“I love helping people – this is such a good opportunity to put our youth group to work,” explained Sunny Hughes.
While federal disaster money and local nonprofits have been impacted by COVID-19 economic damage, limiting recovery funding, natural disasters continue to happen in the Greenbrier Valley. Days after the storm, residents and town government discovered they would not be eligible for federal emergency dollars often distributed by entities like FEMA to mitigate disaster recovery. In order to qualify for a Federal Disaster Declaration, the damages must surpass $2.8 million. Currently, state damages are estimated around $914,000. In place of that, the Greenbrier Valley, including Pocahontas, Monroe, and Greenbrier counties represented by GGLTRC, must take care of its own after this disaster.
Those looking to help can donate funds by visiting ggltrc.org, going to facebook.com/GGLTRC and clicking the fundraiser, or by mailing checks to GGLTRC, 945 Washington Street W, Ste 5, Lewisburg, WV, 24901.
Another group of volunteers is expected to come in and make internal repairs to the home after Monday. As the team worked to remove debris, Brooks explained that the volunteers, McCoy, and her local church have been a huge help in getting through.
“I’m really not new to this – I grew up here so I know what can happen,” Brooks said. “… I just manage. By the grace of God, I manage. My church has helped me, the River Life Church of God. … It could look better, but let’s just say I’m getting there.”