Bridgeville churches band together to aid flood victims |
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Melissa Genovesi and son Hunter Grady, 3, choose cleaning supplies and toiletries from tables filled with donations for those affected by flooding from heavy rain June 20 at the First United Methodist Church in Bridgeville on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Genovesi, who lives off of Baldwin Street in Bridgeville, said they had to be rescued by boat on the evening of the flood.

When her house flooded following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Jacklyn Wagner said she didn’t allow anyone inside to help her clean up. But in the aftermath of last week’s flood, she’s let several volunteer workers in.

Members of the United Methodist Committee’s Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference Disaster Response Team (UMCOR) on June 26 worked to cut open the walls of her home on McLaughlin Run Road so that they might dry. The first floor took on three feet of water during the storm, she said.

“Getting the house clean so that it doesn’t make us sick is an issue,” she said.

Wagner’s home and dozens of others throughout Bridgeville were battered last week by flood waters that ran as high as eight feet in some areas.

For her family and others, relief now is being funneled partly through the area’s churches.

After the outpouring of support he was shown, Jay Irwin, a nearby Baldwin Street resident, with tears in his eyes said he was moved to help others in his community.

Despite losing almost all of his own belongings — aside from a few articles of clothing — after his basement apartment flooded, Irwin was at Wagner’s home helping tear out drywall and wet wood alongside UMCOR volunteers on June 26.

“This made Ivan look like a sprinkle,” he said of the storm.

Since last week, First United Methodist Church has acted as a “command center,” says church member Cindy Womer. Members of the Red Cross have met with and referred service to residents from Bridgeville and surrounding municipalities in the church’s fellowship hall.

The church also has acted as a drop-off zone for donations of cleaning supplies, pet food and canned goods that flood victims can pick up for free.

“It’s pick what you need,” Womer said. “It’s not ‘OK, you only get one.”

Other churches have taken on different directives. Holy Child Catholic Church has accepted and distributed donations of furniture, and even helped shelter victims of the flood in its immediate aftermath.

UMCOR volunteers, some of whom came from as far off as Johnstown, are working under the direction of Crossroads Church leaders.

“The people that we help are typically the ones that are elderly, have medical problems,” said UMCOR District Response Coordinator Dave Kissinger. “We go home at night, we’re dead tired, but our heart feels good because we’ve helped somebody that otherwise wouldn’t get helped.”

Supplies can be donated at First United Methodist Church at 244 Station St. in Bridgeville between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Matthew Guerry is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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