Pennsylvania churches help West Virginia families recover from harsh spring weather

Presbyterian and United Methodist volunteers repair homes damaged by flooding

July 14, 2015

Pennsylvania volunteers repair a home damaged by spring flooding in West Virginia.

Pennsylvania volunteers repair a home damaged by spring flooding in West Virginia. —Photo courtesy of West Virginia VOAD.

LOUISVILLE

Spring storms have caused serious problems for communities around the country. Even as the storms have subsided in many areas, the damage remains and clean up continues. Two churches recently teamed up to help West Virginia families affected by the heavy rains. The First Presbyterian and Community United Methodist Churches of Irwin, Penn., have been working with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD) and the Mingo County Long Term Recovery Group.

Storms and melting ice from a harsh winter have wreaked havoc on the state causing flooding, landslides and mudslides, and damaging infrastructure in 32 counties. Millions of dollars in losses have been reported since mid-March.

Two families in Wayne and Mingo Counties currently reside in temporary housing, while the church groups spent a week installing plumbing, painting the interiors, securing insulation and setting floors in their homes.

“These people are in great need,” said Lee Liermann, a member of Community United Methodist Church. “There’s a lot more to do than we can provide and it would be a wonderful opportunity for people, churches and other organizations to jump in, get their hands dirty and share all that they have.”

First Presbyterian and Community United Methodist are located approximately five minutes away from each other in Irwin.

“Our group represents two separate congregations, but we are united in our commitment to serve others and share the love of Jesus Christ,” said Don Dolhi, a member of First Presbyterian. “But that’s the reason we’re here, to give back and to serve.”

"This is another great example of how Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and our National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster partners work together to help survivors of disasters,” said Rick Turner, associate for national disaster response with PDA. “My heart always swells with pride when I see our ‘blue shirts’ providing ministry of presence and recovery to those who need it the most.”

The Mingo County Long Term Recovery Group was formed after flooding in August 2014. The group has continued to collaborate with Southern West Virginia Disaster Center, LEAD Community Organization and other WV VOAD member agencies on long-term recovery for counties impacted by the March and April storms.

WV VOAD is a humanitarian association of independent organizations that are active in all phases of disaster. Its mission is to identify unmet needs and facilitate efficient streamlined service delivery to those impacted by disaster while eliminating duplication of effort through cooperation, coordination and communication. West Virginia is a member of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

In May, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal disaster aid has been made available to West Virginia to supplement state and local recovery efforts. State and federal officials say more than $13 million in federal assistance has been delivered.

The Presbytery of West Virginia also engages volunteer work teams to help with rebuilding and recovery efforts through the West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy & Workcamps (WVMAW). For more information on how you can be involved, email Joan Stewart at joanandtim.stewart@gmail.com.