Catholic Charities West Virginia Helps Flood Victims Rebuild Their Homes and Lives Through Disaster Recovery Services

In the spring and summer of 2022, West Virginia experienced four flood events spanning nine counties, resulting in over 800 reports of damage to homes and bridges. Unfortunately, these individual flood events did not meet the federal threshold for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), leaving the burden of recovery and rebuilding on local communities and organizations. However, thanks to Bishop Brennan’s collection request and the generous support of the Catholic community, families affected by these floods received the crucial help they needed.

Following a disaster, there’s an innate human desire to lend a hand, with many providing aid through cleanup efforts and donations of supplies. While these immediate responses are essential, the next step is in addressing the long-term repair and rebuilding needs of affected families.

“Catholic Charities is committed to returning West Virginians to safe, secure and stable housing,” said Lora Pierce, Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) Disaster Services Specialist. “We will walk alongside flood survivors for as little or as long as they need us.”

Despite more than a year of recovery efforts, there are still households in need of assistance. The long-term recovery initiative is expected to last until the end of the year. Thanks to the generosity of the Catholic community, and with grant support from partner organizations, CCWVa Disaster Services has disbursed or committed over $60,000, benefiting numerous individuals and families.

Catholic Charities USA has been a huge asset in providing funding to the CCWVa Disaster Services program. In response to the May 2022 and August 2022 flood events, they awarded CCWVa two $10,000 grants which allowed CCWVa to step in to provide short-term disaster assistance. In addition, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster awarded CCWVa a $5,000 Lowe’s Reconstruction Grant for the May 2022 flood recovery efforts.

In total, to date, we’ve assisted 47 households comprising 32 individuals, including 16 seniors, 13 individuals with disabilities, 6 children, and 3 veterans. While these figures illustrate our impact, it’s vital to remember that each statistic represents a real individual or family.

Here are a few of the recovery stories made possible by the Catholic community:

  • R, a disabled senior in Huntington, WV, faced severe flooding on May 6, 2022, resulting in significant damage to his home. Volunteers cleaned and removed damaged materials, and he received donations of furniture and household items. However, his electrical system was compromised, posing a fire hazard. Funding from the DWC special collection enabled us to hire an electrician, ensuring the safety of this senior gentleman.

  • E, a widow in Kanawha County, endured heavy rains on August 15, 2022, resulting in significant creek overflow and damage to her property. Volunteer teams aided in clean-up, and her furnace was repaired, but two sections of her retaining wall were washed away. With limited income, she couldn’t afford the repairs, leaving her anxious about future storms. CCWVa provided funding for a contractor to replace the retaining wall, contributing to flood mitigation efforts and safeguarding her home from future damage.

  • Mr. S, a senior residing alone in Huntington, experienced severe flooding on May 6, 2022, which inundated his home with 36 inches of water. The initial estimate for his complete recovery amounted to $33,000. The resources for his recovery were made possible through contributions from various organizations and individuals, including the Catholic Special Collection, Knights of Columbus, Society of St. Vincent DePaul, St. Joseph Catholic Church, WV Council of Churches, Episcopal Diocese of WV, WVVOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), as well as support from his family members and volunteers. It took a total of 13 months for the full restoration of his home. During the repair process, Mr. S resided in a single bedroom with a recliner chair and a small refrigerator. With each donation and completed task, Mr. S was deeply moved by the overwhelming support he received, and he expressed his heartfelt gratitude.

The stories shared here reflect not only the tangible impact of CCWVa’s Disaster Services, but also the unwavering resilience of individuals and families facing adversity. It is through the collective compassion and support of the Catholic community and dedicated volunteers that CCWVa has been able to help those in need rebuild their lives and find hope amidst challenging circumstances.

“As we continue our long-term recovery efforts, we are reminded that every statistic represents a unique life touched by your generosity,” said Pierce. “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who have played a part in this journey of restoration, reinforcing the power of community and the spirit of solidarity in times of crisis. Together, we demonstrate that, in the face of disaster, the bonds of compassion and assistance can truly make a difference.”

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