Crews helping VRC wrap up disaster relief
SAYRE - As the Valley Relief Council prepares to wind down its disaster relief efforts in Sayre and Athens, it continues to host crews that help finish the few houses that remain in need of repair following the September 2011 flood.
A crew from Mount Calvary Methodist Church in Harrisburg stayed in the VRC's headquarters on North Higgins Avenue in Sayre, the former Ascension of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church rectory, this week as they worked on two houses on the borough's East Side and another in Athens Borough.
As a result of the crew's work, one house was completed, and another is almost complete, said VRC chairperson Lucinda Brown. The third house remains a work in progress, but the crew was able to install sheetrock and do other work in the downstairs bathroom.
Over two and a half years after the flood, the VRC has seven houses that are still being worked on, Brown said. However, all but one of the homeowners have been able to move back into their homes.
The Harrisburg crew, which started participating in disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, visited the area through the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church and the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the church's humanitarian aid organization.
Group members said they felt welcomed in the area and particularly enjoyed being treated to a free movie Wednesday night at the Sayre Theatre. Disaster relief is a way for church members to show God's love through action, the group said.
"We love doing it," said crew member Fred Travitz. "We love the camaraderie of our group and we love doing things for other people."
The number of groups coming to the Valley has slowed as time has passed, but activity at the VRC office is picking up again, Brown said. The VRC is especially in need of groups of plumbers, electricians and other skilled workers as work on the houses winds down, she said.
As the VRC transitions out of disaster relief, the organization has formed a new board of directors to guide the council toward its next project - helping low-income area residents make safety-related repairs to their homes. The VRC will also continue to focus on disaster preparedness in the event of another disaster in the Valley, Brown said.
Between UMCOR and Lutheran Disaster Response, another non-profit disaster relief group, Brown estimates that the VRC has had over 1,100 visiting volunteers put in about 25,000 hours of work to repair flooded homes. Several relief groups have returned to the Valley multiple times.
"We wouldn't be able to do it without groups like this," Brown said.
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: email@example.com.