Penn Yan Mayor Leigh MacKerchar had taken office just weeks before the flood of May 14, 2014. Yates County Legislator Timothy Dennis had been elected chairman five months before the local disaster. Neither of them knew much about The Living Well at the time, but it didn’t take long for them to appreciate what “the little church group” meant for the community’s recovery. 

MacKerchar and Dennis both spoke to volunteers and supporters at the Nov. 9 fifth anniversary celebration at The Living Well’s headquarters on East Elm Street. “What you did for this community was unbelievable,” said MacKerchar. He said when he’s asked by officials from other communities how to be prepared for a disaster, his response is always, “You need a group like The Living Well.”

Referring to former President George H.W. Bush’s 1,000 Points of Lights, Dennis said The Living Well is the community’s Beacon of Hope.

MacKerchar and Dennis told the group of volunteers and supporters that all the volunteer coordination seemed to flow through the small organization, which itself had been hit hard by flood damage. MacKerchar credited The Living Well with caring for the body and soul of the community in the aftermath of the floods that devastated many homes and businesses. 

Dennis joked that the community learned the real meaning of the acronym “FEMA.”

“It means Find Every Methodist Available, but in this community it could also mean Find Every Mennonite Available,” he said.

Sandi Perl, who was the driving force in establishing The Living Well after American Red Cross and Salvation Army left the Yates County community, thanked all the volunteers and supporters at the gathering, and shared special comments with Methodist Pastor Jeff Childs, and volunteers Beulah Decker and Chet Briggs. 

She also talked about plans for the organization’s future, which include expanding the headquarters into a neighboring storefront, and to open a memory café to offer respite for people with memory loss and their caregivers.