September 3, 2013

CWS Helps Iowa Couple, Other Survivors of Spring and Summer Storms

House shifted off its foundations
Flash flooding in June 2013 filled Bill Recker and Carma Agan's house and shifted it off its foundations, ruining the house and most of its contents. Photo: Courtesy Delaware County Disaster Recovery Committee

By Carol Fouke-Mpoyo/CWS

When Bill Recker and Carma Agan lost their Buck Creek, Iowa, home to flash flooding in June, they would have faced a lonely struggle to recover if it weren’t for the Delaware County Disaster Recovery Committee.

With support from Church World Service, that community-based group is “working on multiple fronts with these folks to generate enough support to get them back on their feet,” said the group’s chairperson, the Rev. David A. Weber, pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Manchester, Iowa.

Recker and Agan noticed that it was raining especially hard that evening of June 25, but never expected their home to get flooded.  After all, no one could remember the tiny creek 150 feet behind their house ever overflowing its banks, and their house had never been affected by high waters.

The couple went to sleep certain that their home would be fine.  But in the early hours of June 26, they were jolted awake as flash flood waters poured into their house.

They had a few short minutes to escape the rapidly rising tide.  The bedroom door would not open, so they exited through a window.  They dropped into 4-1/2 feet of water and had to work their way to higher ground. 

The creek had lost its struggle to successfully drain areas that had received six or more inches of rain in a matter of a few hours.  In the process, Recker, a truck driver, and Agan, a postal employee, lost just about everything they owned. 

A few days later, they were informed that their insurance covered only their vehicle, not their house or its contents.  In addition, too few homes in the area were damaged or destroyed to generate a federal disaster declaration for individuals, ruling out certain federal resources for recovery.

But it wasn’t long before the Delaware County Disaster Recovery Committee brought hope into this situation of despair. Soon after the flood waters receded, the committee’s vice chairperson, Mike Ryan, visited Recker and Agan’s home.

“It was very easy to classify as destroyed,” he said.  The home was moved 15 inches off of the foundation.  Water levels inside had approached five feet.  The door frames and windows were out of square, and the floors were buckled.  The home contents were being removed from the house and placed on the lawn when I was there.  Honestly, there was very little that had not been affected by the flood waters.”

Ryan noted that the couple has been able to rent a home for the near term close to the property that was destroyed.  Their son Cody has started an online fundraiser to help raise money for his parents to rebuild or relocate.

“They have vowed to place every donated dollar into a savings account until they determine their best long-term option,” Ryan said.

CWS Emergency Clean Up Buckets received
First Christian Church in downtown Mansfield, Ohio, requested and received 200 CWS Emergency Clean Up Buckets for distribution to people recovering from heavy rains and flooding in Richland County in July. This active CWS CROP Hunger Walk congregation is coordinating with the area emergency management system and other CROP Hunger Walk churches to identify people most in need of these supplies, said the church’s secretary, Sandy Stout. Photo: Courtesy First Christian Church

Church World Service has approved a $5,000 “start-up and sustainment grant” for the committee, which the committee plans to share between this and another flood-affected household in Delaware County. 

The Delaware County Disaster Recovery Committee formed three years ago to help survivors of record flooding on the Maquoketa River.  It has remained active and therefore able to respond quickly when new disaster hits the county.

The committee is one of many local disaster long-term recovery groups that CWS is supporting as they reach out to survivors of the many storms, foods, tornadoes and wildfires that have beset communities across the United States this spring and summer.

In fact, CWS’s “U.S. Storms, Floods, Tornadoes and Wildfires” response is one of its two most active disaster response programs right now, the other being long-term recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

To date, under the storms program, CWS has filled requests for CWS Kits and Blankets with a combined value of $350,000, shipping them to affected communities in Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. 

CWS also has approved $5,000 “start-up and sustainment grants” for long-term recovery groups serving Mobile County, Ala.; Yarnell Hill, Ariz.; Suwanee and Columbia counties, Fla.; Gordon County, Ga.; St. John the Baptist Parish, La., Delaware and Clayton counties, Iowa, and Fulton-Montgomery and Herkimer-Oneida counties, N.Y.  More grants are being requested and will be approved as funds permit. 

And CWS is conducting disaster recovery workshops in Bridgeport and Charleston, W. Va., Aug. 28 and 29, and in Oklahoma City Sept. 5, with two more workshops being planned for Chicago and Bloomington, Ill., in late September or early October.

CWS emergency response specialists also mentor local long-term recovery groups in affected areas.  For example, in recent weeks CWS Emergency Response Specialist Susanne Gilmore has met with the Iowa State VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and long-term recovery groups in Lindsborg and Hutchison, Kansas.

The humanitarian agency Church World Service is a close working partner in the United States with the American Red Cross, National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) in helping people put their lives back together after a disaster.  The agency also is known for its work to combat hunger and poverty, including the CROP Hunger Walk; its U.S. refugee resettlement program; and its international humanitarian assistance program.

Click here for more detail on CWS’s “U.S. Storms, Floods, Tornadoes and Wildfires” response program.

See an interview with Recker and Agan in a KCRG-TV report.