Case Manager for Lutheran Congregational Services (LCS) and active leader of the Eastwick Unmet Needs Roundtable, Stacey Ford, is reminding her neighbors in need and victims of disastrous flooding, that they are not forgotten. Stacey is currently a resident of the Eastwick region of Philadelphia and she knows first-hand the challenges her neighborhood is suffering after Tropical Storm Isaias caused severe flooding across eastern Pennsylvania in August of 2020.
“Although this storm was one year ago, the people of Eastwick are still recovering from its impact,” Stacey emphasizes. With over 120 families affected, homes in Eastwick were flooded with several feet of water, damaging heaters and air conditioning systems beyond repair. With heaters costing between $5,000 and $9,000 each, these families are facing incredible hardships. And most of them are living at or just above poverty level. Additionally, there are several homes that require construction and rebuilding as ground levels were filled with up to five feet of water.
Stacey, alongside Lutheran Disaster Response –Eastern PA (LDR-EPa), and partners from near and far are actively working to bring relief to the people of this community. Fortunately, Stacey has previous experience in disaster response work as she served as a case manager in Coney Island helping families recover after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
“My partner and I used to go to Coney Island a lot and we’d utilize the beach there. When Hurricane Sandy hit, I felt compelled to help,” she recalls. Stacey worked with 30 families on Coney Island and helped them reach long-term recovery. Now, she finds herself doing similar work for the people of Eastwick.
Stacey became a resident of Eastwick during the summer of 2019, when she moved into her childhood home after her mother passed away. One year later, when Tropical Storm Isaias flooded so many of her neighbors’ homes, she knew her case management skills would be of good use.
As a case manager for LCS and LDR-EPa, Stacey connects families that have been declared flood survivors with the resources they need for recovery. She notes that there are several challenges throughout this journey. “One of the greatest obstacles is the lack of awareness and acknowledgement from the city and state that the people of Eastwick are suffering. Many of them felt as though they had been forgotten,” Stacey reflects.
“Tropical Storm Isaias happened in August of 2020, which was the middle of the pandemic and also the election cycle. The media, city, and state, were very much focused on that and didn’t give much attention to our flood survivors,” she adds. Additionally, the loss of heating and air conditioning systems was another obvious challenge, plus a build-up of mold in many homes, and several of them require construction and rebuilding from water damage.
“Also, the high price of flood insurance is another obstacle, and some of these residents were not aware that they lived in a flood zone when they purchased their homes,” Stacey explains. Stacey also notes that neighboring creeks are equipped with alarms that warn residents when there’s a potential risk for flooding. However, the creeks in the Eastwick neighborhood, are not equipped with such alarms, leaving the residents of Eastwick especially vulnerable.
Community leaders in the Lehigh Valley (also impacted by Isaias) and Eastwick are dedicated to providing relief for their neighbors in need. Thanks to collaborating agencies, LCS and LDR have been able to provide direct financial relief for flooded residents and to advocate for support from various disaster agencies.
Thanks to the funds we’ve raised, including $120,000 in grants from the ELCA LDR-US program, we’ve been able to replace heaters on numerous homes and install equipment to protect them from future flooding and water damage.Stacey Ford, case manager for Lutheran Congregational Services and leader in the Eastwick Unmet Needs Roundtable
“We’ve also been able to begin construction as many of the ground levels of these homes need to be rebuilt. We’ve organized volunteer agencies for this rebuilding effort and are in the process of purchasing materials for them to bring the people back to their pre-disaster living conditions,” she continues.
“On a systematic level, we were also able to hold a meeting with major stakeholders in the city to let them know that the people of Eastwick needed their help. As a result of that meeting, the city heard us and committed $100,000 dollars to help with the repairs of homes,” Stacey notes. As families and individuals in Eastwick continue to recover, Stacey and LCS hope to attain alarms for the creeks that continue to cause flooding in their neighborhood.
“An alarm would really help in ongoing mitigation efforts to help keep the families in Eastwick safe,” Stacey says. Continuing to navigate several challenges, Stacey feels blessed to help her neighbors in need. “My greatest joy is letting people know that they are not forgotten. It has been very rewarding to build new relationships with the people of Eastwick and the professionals who have helped us along the journey to recovery,” she reflects.