Local Residents Visit Flood-Worn Area
New Martinsville resident Jodi Blair arrived home from Rainelle, W.Va. – a recently flood devastated area – late in the evening on June 30.
Within hours, she had a call inquiring about her possible return as a volunteer coordinator.
There is no doubt that the cleanup from the southern West Virginia flooding can be emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting – for victims and volunteers. Yet, Blair, a veteran of the United States military, does not seem to be at all leery of the challenge.
The mom of three noted that she took her first trip to the flood-devastated area because she just “felt” like she needed to go and help.
Furthermore, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to compassion and hardwork. Blair noted that her son, Tyler, didn’t want to accompany her on her trip at first. By the time the duo was due to head home to New Martinsville though, Tyler didn’t want to leave.
Blair described the cleanup as “very organized.”
“We checked in at the Red Cross, and we filled out paperwork. We received a tetanus shot and then were tasked out to whatever location we were needed,” Blair explained.
Blair was assigned to Alvis Floral in Rainelle. The owner of the florist, whose name was Pat, told Blair that she had never seen flooding such as what was just encountered.
Blair saw the devastation herself.
“Wooden shelves that were supposed to be horizontal were picked up and turned vertically, the water was that forceful. The water just picked the shelves up and tossed them,” she said.
Furthermore, the mud was thick and difficult to clean. Blair explained that when scrubbing, it would keep smearing.
Despite the serious circumstances, the florist shop’s owner and Blair exchanged in some friendly banter regarding the Magnolia shirt Blair was wearing.
Ironically, “(The owner’s) son had once played against Magnolia at one point,” Blair said, adding she had encountered some teasing because of that.
During her volunteerism, Blair also worked at a relief center where donations were given out. She remarked that she heard more residents’ stories while volunteering at the center.
One story that sticks out to Blair comes from her interaction with fellow mom who came to the center with two little girls.
“The youngest proudly said, ‘We didn’t lose our house!” but then she added that they only lost half of it… She can’t reconcile that they did lose it… Her little sister just lowered her head.”
Blair said she she didn’t think area children really understood the situation.
“Half of the kids are so young and don’t really understand ” she explained.
Blair said many elderly residents are in need of help, due to the fact that they were not as easily able to pack up belongings and evacuate.
Plus, “There are still a few people missing,” she noted.
Despite the positivity that comes from knowing so many are wanting to help the flood victims, Blair noted that there are some trying to profit and scam from the situation. She explained that she had to start marking bar codes out with a marker due to the fact that people had taken diapers and formula from the relief center, but were then caught returning the donated items to the stores, seeking cash.
There have also been reports of stealing and looting.
“People are trying to steal what victims actually have left,” Blair said, with disgust.
Another embarrassing issue: “There are also too many people just travelling there and just gawking,” she said.
And though the photos on social media, of the flooding devastation, have been plentiful, Blair makes it her personal policy to try to limit the photos she took. She explained that she felt it was disrespectful to the victims.
Blair recollects one flood victim’s account of how she (the victim) had seen what was left of her vehicle all over social media.
Despite those negatives that can come out of such a huge event, Blair was impressed most with the way people had joined together. She noted the victims’ “glass half-full” mentally, and their desire to persevere and rebuild.
One elderly woman had noted to Blair that there was no point in “sitting here and dwelling” on the situation.
Blair is astounded at the amount of people, and communities, coming together to rebuild, “working 12-14 hours a day.”
“I slept well from working,” she remarked.
Additionally, “I probably had the best BBQ I’ve ever had,” Blair said, explaining how everyone has been fed well thanks to fellow helpers.
She noted that, while working at the relief center, she encountered so many with “smiles on their faces,” who did not want to take too many items. Blair remarked how one volunteer turned out to be a victim himself. The gentleman had remarked, after a full day of volunteering, that he needed to go home and continue cleanup… on his own home.
How You Can Help
There is no doubt that the rebuilding process will take months for victims of the West Virginia floods. Several local organizations have held donation drives. The Wetzel Chronicle will try to keep the public updated on the recent drives via our website, Facebook page, and the physical paper.
West Virginia native Brad Paisley has also started a Go Fund me account to try to raise $1 million. This can be accessed at www.gofundme.com/WestVirginiaFloods
The Red Cross is also accepting donations for its Disaster Relief Fund. Visit www.redcross.org for more information.
A fundraiser is currently going on to send “Hot n’ Ready” Little Ceasar’s pizzas to flood victims and volunteers. As of Sunday, $2,059 had been collected in donations and 236 pizzas had been ordered. Donations are still be accepted and can be accepted through PayPal. Via PayPal, send the donations to firstname.lastname@example.org and please send it “Friends and Family” to avoid charges.
Organizations holding drives are encouraged to contact the Wetzel Chronicle at email@example.com or at 304-455-3300 so that we may help spread the word.