Volunteers break ground for 10 new homes

Published: May. 30, 2017 at 11:36 PM EDT
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CLENDENIN, W.Va. (WV MetroNews) -- Representatives from a number of charity organizations put their shovels to the dirt Tuesday to break ground on 10 new homes in the Kanawha County town of Clendenin.

The homes are being built for victims of the June 2016 flood.

“They’ve already got the foundation started,” said Jenny Gannaway, executive director of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), pointing to the work taking place behind her following a ceremony on Koontz Avenue.

West Virginia VOAD has been helping with flood recovery efforts from the start. For this project, Neighbors Loving Neighbors teamed up with West Virginia VOAD, along with Mennonite Disaster Service, United Way of Central West Virginia and Rotary International to begin building the new homes.

Bringing these community partners together is what creates progress, Gannaway said.

“As one, you can’t do a whole lot. Once you bring a lot of people and everybody together, then you’re able to do much more,” she said.

John Powell with Rotary said they funded the Clendenin project among others across the state following the flood.

“Up until now, we have $206,000 we’ve raised. We put $25,000 toward five houses. We’ve donated to a ballpark at Herbert Hoover High School. We’ve donated to a ballpark in Rainelle and we’re still looking for other areas,” Powell said.

The families who will receive these homes were vetted through Disaster Case Managers, like Michael Austin.

“A lot of them are going through a lot of emotional issues,” he explained. “Even today, a lot of them has been going through a whole lot. Every time it rains they have a little fear and different things of that nature.”

He hears the stories of flood victims on a daily basis.

“We go and visit the family -- just sit down and ask them to tell us their story and they tell us their story. We just go from there and develop a recovery plan for them. Once we develop a recovery plan, then that’s when work like this begins to happen,” Austin said.

Susan Jack, a Clendenin resident, has seen the devastation and remembers what it was like to walk to muddy roads of Clendenin. She now works as the executive director for the Greater Kanawha Long-Term Recovery Committee.

“You could literally stand right here and do a 360 and as far as you can see was just utter devastation. I’ll never forget it,” she recalled.

Nearly one year after the flood, volunteers are still needed. Funding also remains a top priority, said J.F. Lacaria with the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“We’re still discovering families that have a lot of unmet needs. There’s an ongoing need for funding that may never end for many years to help underwrite all the projects that we face,” he said.

Gannaway said they plan for a new bridge or a new home to be dedicated at least every week. She predicted it will take years to make a full recovery statewide.