Volunteers help rebuild flood damaged homes

Gwen Chamberlain
This team of UMCOR volunteers helped rebuild Russ and Judy Scheel's basement after the May 14 flood filled the house with 12 feet of water.

Help continues to come to the Penn Yan area following the mid-May floods.

Last Monday, a team of 14 volunteers crowded into the newly sheet-rocked basement at Judy (Gibbs) and Russ Scheel’s Northview Avenue home.

This week, more teams of volunteers are in the area, helping with whatever cleaning or reconstruction projects they can.

At the Champlin Avenue home of James and Sarah Babcock, volunteers from Hammondsport and Wayland were helping with insulation and sheetrock taping and mudding.

Between trips up and down a ladder, Rocky Draper of Hammondsport said he and his friend Rick Jacquier both retired this year, so “Now we go anywhere God sends us.” The two, along with Debbie Groshner of Wayland, came to Penn Yan through the Hammondsport Methodist Church. Groshner has been traveling to help victims of natural disasters since Hurricane Andrew hit Florida 22 years ago.

The Babcock’s home, one of the hardest hit on May 14, has been completely gutted, re-wired, and reconfigured to meet current building codes. “This was a nightmare,” James says, explaining the changes that were needed for the two family home.

The volunteers are helping the Babcocks meet their challenge of having one side of the duplex ready for occupancy within two months. The couple moved to the home five years ago, and purchased the property four years ago. Their late son’s former partner, Jessi Turner, and her four children are living with family in Dundee while they wait to return to their apartment in the house.

They, like others, looked at other living options, but decided the answer for their family is to repair the Champlin Avenue house. They are grateful for all the volunteers who take time to come and help, especially those from the Mennonite Disaster Service who showed up the day of the flood. Another team of Mennonite volunteers had almost the entire house sheetrocked within hours.

The Babcocks have received help from The Living Well, Pro-Action, Keuka Housing Council, and the state of New York, and they just learned funds from the Living Well will cover the cost of new kitchen cabinets and flooring.

Brian Greenwald of Jamestown, who coordinated the team working at the Scheel’s home last week, is an Early Response Team trainer for the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR). When he learned people in Penn Yan needed help to rebuild following the floods, it didn’t take long to get other volunteers to help.

Members of the team came from all over — Jamestown, Rochester, Binghamton, Syracuse, and other areas. The volunteers spent the week, sleeping at the Assembly of God’s former church building on Rte. 14A, and the Penn Yan school made shower facilities available for their use.

Some were here all week, while others only volunteered a day or two. But they made quick work of the taping and mudding in the Scheel’s basement.

Judy says on the night of May 13 and 14, water rushed across their sloping back yard and broke through two basement windows, quickly flooding the house with 12 feet of water. The basement was completely swamped, and the water rose to about three feet in the next level of the split level home — the family room, laundry room and a bathroom.

The basement was entirely gutted, and the walls in the family room level were partially replaced.

The Scheels lost everything that was in their basement — from all of their winter clothing and Christmas decorations to the tools in Russ’s workshop. In the family room, they lost books, furniture, family keepsakes and more.

Family and friends helped them haul out the damaged items and shovel out the mud. Jack and Ethel Clancy, who were in Florida at the time, insisted that Judy and Russ move into their home while work was done on the damaged house where Judy had lived for 40 years (She and Russ were married three years ago).

Greenwald was hoping after the volunteers put three coats of mud on the sheetrock, they were would have time to paint the walls as well, but they were also scheduled to help out at a few other damaged homes in the community.

Chet Briggs and Beulah Decker of The Living Well are helping coordinate assignments for the volunteers teams. They, and Sandi Perl, executive director at The Living Well, are whittling away at the list of people who need help, but with additional rain, the needs continue to flood onto their lists.

Perl is also concerned that there are still people who have not reached out for help yet, thinking that the last storm will be the end of their problems, when in reality they could be just the beginning of new, unseen problems. She says some homeowners are just beginning to discover that mold has been growing behind siding and inside walls. There is also concern that when heating season arrives, people will discover problems with furnaces.

Even if you are not sure if you need help, Perl says you should contact The Living Well now, while there are still resources - money and volunteers — to help. If you have a neighbor or family member who has not sought help with problems that resulted from the flooding, encourage them to contact The Living Well.

A new case manager started working at the agency last week to help coordinate services, says Perl. To see if you qualify for financial help or help from volunteer workers, call The Living Well at 315-521-6883.