Volunteers Respond as Thousands of Homes are Reported Damaged


By Zachary Hoffman
Disaster News Network

Bob Relf of McEachern United Methodist Church pulled drywall from the living room of a house in Powder Springs after record rainfall left two feet of water within the home.

He was a member of one of the many early responder groups reaching out to flood victims in Georgia after more than 14 inches of rain poured onto counties in Georgia overnight September 21; some places saw more than 20 inches in a 24-hour period.

“As I know now, there are thousands of homes in the Atlanta area that are not livable,” said Mike Yoder, Disaster Response Coordinator of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. “The important thing is that there are thousands of families out there hurting and we need to do what we can.”

Adjei Boachie and his family lived in Austell before the creek behind their house flooded the second floor of their home.

A group from McEachern UMC joined the Boachie family last Saturday to help remove the contents of their house and pull out all the wet drywall.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Bob Folson from McEachern. “I picked up curtain rods and they were just full of water.”

Bob Relf said, “The problem is it crumbles, you can’t pick pieces up.”

A few houses away, Fernando Uribe and his wife Gini were busy disassembling their first real investment. The 27-year-old couple had just purchased the home to start a life with their two-year-old daughter.

Gini Uribe and her daughter were home when the flood started. A neighbor helped get the two-year-old to safety while Uribe had to almost swim through the waist deep water. By the time Fernando was able to get home from work, water was already halfway up the front door and neighbors were crawling through their upstairs bedrooms to salvage items by boat.

“We started with nothing, now we have to start all over again with nothing,” said Gini Uribe.

Another few houses in the opposite direction, Beverly Phillips was spared from damage but felt compelled to do her part anyway. She bought 12 pizzas to feed the neighborhood, which turned into donations from local businesses of three meals a day for more than 40 families.

“We didn’t get flooded, and it’s the only thing I could think of to do,” said Phillips. “I never thought I’d be able to help this many people at once.”

“They may be eating pizzas three times a day, but they don’t care,” Phillips said.

In 2004, Hurricane Dennis swept though Georgia and flooded many of the same areas in Powder Springs, Marietta and outside of Douglasville hit hardest during this flood event.

“These folks have been hit hard two times in the past five years,” said Bob Tribble, of Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) and president of the Georgia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). “People living in these counties are king of prone.”

Yet, the vast majority of homeowners do not have flood insurance because they are not living in a flood plain. Still, hope remains with the intervention of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and faith-based response organizations.

“This is not a one man show, everybody has to cooperate,” said Yoder.

The United Methodist Church, LDR, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), Church World Service (CWS), the United Church of Christ, Week of Compassion, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Samaritan’s Purse, the Adventist Church and Georgia Baptists are a few of the organizations planning to respond to the disaster. However, much of the immediate work is being coordinated by local churches.

“The disaster is owned by the people where the disaster is,” said Yoder.

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