For the people of Schuylkill County, the dangerous weather in Northeastern Pennsylvania that occurred this past August was much more than a rainy end to summer. The overwhelming amount of precipitation in this region led to dangerous floods that caused devastating damage to homes and businesses throughout the community, not to mention the families who lived and worked there.
The floods endured by Schuylkill County created immense challenges for the people of their region that they alone, would not be able to overcome. Lutheran Congregational Services, and their partnerships with disaster response teams from various churches, continue to provide relief for families whose lives have been impacted by the floods that occurred in August of 2018.
This work would not be possible without the volunteers responding to disaster to do God’s work and provide relief for those who need it most. Maureen Duffy, currently a UCC pastor in Tower City, Pennsylvania is one of them. Maureen first became involved with Lutheran Congregational Services when she participated in a Lay Eucharistic Visitor training session. A program devoted to bringing the Eucharist to home-bound individuals who can’t attend worship due to poor health and other reasons, Maureen says the visitor training was very valuable.
“Having many shut-ins, this was a wonderful way for them see more people from the congregation and receive visits more often.”
Maureen’s participation in Lay Eucharistic Visits are just one demonstration of her commitment to serve the people of her community. Her support in the ongoing flood relief efforts for Schuylkill County are another.
A little help goes a long way…
When the flooding last August washed over the community, Maureen was reminded of similarly dangerous weather conditions she and her churches experienced back in 2011. “There was significant flooding,” Maureen recalls. “St. Peter’s had so much water in their basement. It was emotionally very difficult,” she says remembering the impact of the devastating weather on the people of her community. At the time, Karl Jones, a UCC pastor and disaster volunteer came to visit Maureen’s church.
A seemingly small act of kindness to come out and offer assistance, Maureen was extremely grateful for Karl’s help, “A visit seems like a small thing, but it truly makes a world of difference when you suffer a flood.”
Fast forward seven years to the August flooding of Schuylkill County, and Maureen’s memory of the difference Karl’s visit made to her church back in 2011, sparked motivation to carry on his generosity. Maureen along with UCC pastors, Claude Schach of Tremont and Jason Stump of Pine Grove, met with Karl Jones and decided to start a disaster relief fund to assist the people of Schuylkill County who greatly needed a helping hand.
Starting small, thinking big and letting families know, we care.
“At first we gave out clean-up buckets, then dehumidifiers,” Maureen says recalling their initial efforts that were soon to grow larger than any of them anticipated.
“The fund grew fast. I was the treasurer and we surprisingly had the problem of asking ourselves, ‘what do we do with this money?’”
A good problem to have when it comes to disaster response, Maureen and her fellow pastors quickly realized if they wanted to significantly help the people of Schuylkill County, they would need a trained caseworker as well as a construction manager.
Recruiting Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) volunteer, Dennis Steffy as construction manager, and Joe Sciandra as caseworker, the team became more equipped to determine the needs of families affected by the floods and to better allocate their funds.
“Joe and Dennis have made a big difference. Their help makes the families affected feel like people care, and their repairs allow the families to be safe, sanitary, and secure.” Maureen says, thankful for the help that Dennis and Joe have provided.
“We recently put four hot water heaters into various homes and one furnace,” Maureen says, recalling just one of many ways the team continues to assist families with recovery.
“More furnaces will be repaired in the next couple of weeks,” Maureen adds. “There’s plenty of opportunity to serve for those who’d like to help put homes back together. Funds are still very-much needed to finish the recovery efforts.” Maureen states, further substantiating the fact that although the flooding waters have long since come and gone, the recovery of Schuylkill County continues to be an ongoing process. As Maureen and UCC pastors from other churches encourage volunteers to get involved, the invitation for participation on the part of Lutheran churches is equally encouraged.
Relief efforts continue, ensuring families they are not forgotten.
“Just because the floods aren’t in the news anymore, doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. Some people still aren’t back in their homes.” Maureen says with a balance of both fragility and urgency for the work that has yet to be done.
With the strength and goodwill of her congregation behind her, Maureen’s efforts to help the people of Schuylkill County continue, and her gratitude for the support from Lutheran Congregational Services is endless, “I am grateful to Liberty Lutheran and Lutheran Congregational Services. It means so much to know we are not forgotten.”