AGAPE in Dire Need of Volunteers

AGAPE is in dire need of volunteers. The need for help (especially during the day) is now critical with the new applications for financial assistance coming in as well as an increased demand for furniture, appliances etc. as flood survivors begin to get back on their feet. In the words of an AGAPE employee, “It was a zoo yesterday and as you know not one person there is a paid employee.”

The crisis is over but the emergency is not.

AGAPE is requesting volunteers to fill positions at the dates and times listed below. Please understand that any part of the day listed would be most appreciated with mornings always much busier than afternoons. AGAPE Center will be open regularly: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Closed Wednesdays and Sundays. Call 317-2210, send an email to agaperelief@gmail.com or stop by the AGAPE CENTER if you can help with any of the following:

At AGAPE CENTER, 19 E. SEVENTH STREET, BLOOMSBURG
Information desk
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Answer phone, hand out applications, fill supply needs.

AGAPE CENTER
Storehouse helpers: Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability.
Help lift, load, unload and store donations (some heavy lifting)
Sort clothes; help fill supply requests from information desk.

At BLOOMSBURG MILLS WAREHOUSE, corner of Market and
Sixth Street, behind grass lot.
Handout food:
Thursday: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Saturday: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

FREEDOM HALL AT THE BLOOMSBURG FAIR GROUNDS
( Behind Farm Museum and near Tank Display)
Storehouse helpers: Help unload and store donated furniture; help load
furniture for flood survivors
Monday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

FLOOD SURVIVOR RECOVERY ASSISTANCE
Case Workers: Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability. Experienced or willing to train to interview flood survivors.

EXPERIENCED VOLUNTEERS
Hours varied. AGAPE will work to coordinate with volunteer availability.
Licensed electrician
Licensed plumber
Drywaller

Information courtesy of AGAPE

“We Wanted to Find a Way to Help.” (Stories of the Relief Effort)

On Friday, October 7, the Wesley United Methodist Church on Market Street in Bloomsburg served the last of its AGAPE-sponsored, post-flood lunches. By the end of that day’s service, the church and AGAPE volunteers, led by Wesley kitchen coordinator Tracy Beere, served over 17,000 meals to members of our community during this time of crisis. Some of us needed to eat because our kitchens were destroyed and we could not cook for ourselves. Some of us were hungry after a long morning of volunteering to clean-up. And some of were simply too distracted to realize we were hungry until someone came to our door and reminded us of that fact.

No matter what the reason, Beere and the team of the volunteers prepared bagged lunches (which contained a sandwich, a small bag of chips, a piece of fruit, and a snack), pints of fresh-made soup, and hot coffee. They next went out to the flood-affected neighborhoods and delivered their goods door-to-door to anyone in need of them. At the end of each prep and delivery shift, the Wesley kitchen was then cleaned and prepared for the whole cycle to repeat again the next day.

While instances of area residents pitching in and helping out their neighbors during this crisis are plentiful, Bloomsburg also had help from beyond her borders by many caring individuals, businesses, and organizations. One such helping hand was extended all the way from Missouri.  Convoy of Hope, a Springfield-based charitable organization with its own disaster response command center and fleet of tractor trailers, not only donated but delivered 6,700 trays of frozen vegetarian lasagna to AGAPE for local distribution in one of their 53-foot, 18-wheelers. Each tray was large enough to yield 10-12 meals (as of 2010, the population of Columbia County was 67,295. In other words, Convoy of Hope donated a meal to every single resident of Columbia County).

The chain that stretched the thousand miles from Convoy of Hope all the way to Bloomsburg had a few local links in it. The President of AGAPE is David Rosenberger, who is also the pastor at the New Testament Assembly of God Church in Millville. According to Rosenberger, “In the first day or two after the flood, Keith Evans (the pastor of the Assembly of God Church in Berwick) and I were trying to figure out what we could offer to the flood relief.  We almost instantly thought of Convoy of Hope, an Assembly of God organization.”  Pastor Rosenberger reached out to his contacts and was able to get several offers of help.  Initially the offers were for things that weren’t needed (or for things that AGAPE already had enough of), but Convoy of Hope and Rosenberger eventually came up with the lasagna donation.  Once they had the means to keep it cold (thanks to Weis Markets ), the huge donation was packed up and delivered.

And while the response in terms of the volume of donations to AGAPE has been overwhelming, nothing will be going to waste. Chapman explained that some of the donated materials will be kept in reserve as a ready-stock for future disasters, clean-up, and ongoing assistance. The remaining materials will be go to others who have more immediate needs.

This transfer of donations is partially possible due to the relationship AGAPE has with Mission Central, a charitable organization associated with the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church. Based in Mechanicsburg, PA, Mission Central serves as one of many hubs across the United States for mutually-assisted, community based disaster relief. After the needs of any particular community are met, hubs like Mission Central maintain a stock of supplies to send to similar local hubs for other communities that may be in need. Likewise, these hubs also receive donated material back from across the nation if a particular need arises in their area.

Chapman stated that when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, some donated materials from Bloomsburg were sent to New Orleans through Mission Central, and in these past few weeks, in our time of need, Mission Central helped collect from other hubs and channel those donations and stocks of material to Bloomsburg and other towns along the Susquehanna. AGAPE will also be “paying it forward” by reallocating some donations on to other local communities that suffered the effects of Tropical Storm Lee – Nescopeck and Shickshinny in particular.

To all that pitched in with help near and far, from all of those you helped in any way: Our sincerest thanks.

Reported by Jen Ralston, Marilyn Witherup, Laurilyn Witherup-Bailey, Kristin Camplese, and Derek Gittler

Photograph by Kristin Camplese

The Moose Exchange Donation Center: Q&A with Rachel Troychock

Focused on children’s clothing and supplies, the AGAPE donation center at the Moose Exchange has been up and running since mid-September, thanks to the work of a tireless volunteer named Rachel Troychock.

Rachel took some time recently to answer a few questions for us.

Q. What do you do for a living?

I am a Manager of Technology Learning Services at KPMG (geeky computer stuff). I work remotely and the rest of my team is in Montvale, NJ and Washington, DC.

Q. How did you become involved in the Moose Exchange donation center?

I volunteered through AGAPE to prepare meals the first few days after the flood and soon was offered the opportunity to open this location through my friend and realtor, Kathy Lowe, who is the volunteer coordinator for the flood relief efforts through AGAPE. I took two weeks of vacation at first, but now I am back to work full time on an altered schedule to keep the center open. Yesterday, with our son being sick was my first time my husband and I were away from the donation center since we opened. I am so grateful for my family, friends and new friends we have made along the way.

Q. Can you give us a brief overview of what sorts of donations you received at the Moose Exchange?

We’ve received a little bit of everything. Most donations contain some toys and clothing, but we’ve had folks come in – ask us what we need and then return with either used or brand new items. If there is a need I’ve posted on Facebook in the relief groups (such as Bloomsburg Flood 2011 – Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Flood 2011 Relief From Bloomsburg PA Natives) and within a day or two we’ve gotten what we asked for.

The donation center carries (in no particular order) diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, clothing from preemie to 14/16 and Juniors, coats, hats/gloves/scarves, car seats, strollers, high chairs, booster seats (both for cars and dining), baby and adult toiletries, monitors, crib/toddler/twin size bedding including quilts, cribs, bassinets/cradles, mother/nursing supplies (nursing pads, pumps, maternity/nursing clothing), etc… We also have an assortment of games, books and coloring books for kids of every age.

Q. Where did these donations come from? What was the breakdown of private donations/businesses…all local or did some supplies come in from out of the area?

I’m not sure where the donations sent from AGAPE came from originally although some of the boxes we unpacked that first day were marked as being from FEMA.

We’ve received many, many, many donations from local residents… We didn’t start tracking the donations that were coming in until we had been open several days, but over the past two weeks we’ve had close to 60 donations (not counting the many who snuck in after-hours – sadly, AGAPE won’t receive any information on these donations – having the value of the donations helps).

Q. How many families-in-need have been helped so far by the donation program?

We’ve helped over 90 families, many of which have been in several times. Most of the families coming in still don’t seem to have a permanent place to stay yet. We have several families camping behind or near their homes. That being said I think the need is still there, but the victims aren’t necessarily ready to take more than the essentials.

Q. I heard that you did a door-to-door canvas last month. What were the results of that?

Due to lack of volunteers and rainy weather we haven’t been able to go door-to-door again, but it did seem to help. My husband and another volunteer spent about an hour walking thru west Bloom and called in orders which we packed up and delivered. We were able to reach 5 families that either didn’t know we were there or hadn’t made the time to come visit us. A few of those families have been back to see us again!

I’m going to be calling some of the families that have come through to catch up and see if we can provide any more assistance to them. I’m also going to try to get a hold of folks at each of the schools to send fliers which can be distributed.

Q. Are you anticipating more families coming in to the Moose Exchange to pick up supplies? If so, how many?

Most definitely. We’re averaging about 7 families per day we’re open, but we’re seeing the amount of families is increasing over time. Some of that is because we’ve shortened our hours, but it is also because familes are finally getting back into homes (whether it is their home or a rental property until work on their home is complete). Monday we helped over 10 families and yesterday was over a dozen.

Q. Are there any donations currently needed by the Moose Exchange?

Bookbags, winter coats/hats/gloves (especially in the larger children’s sizes – 3T and up), winter girls clothing in 3T and 5T.

The needs seem to change every week though, so I encourage people to contact me before bringing in donations.

If you are in need of children’s supplies, wish to donate, or want to volunteer to help at the Moose Exchange donation center, please contact Rachel at: 862-812-9855 or racheltroychock@hotmail.com.

 

Jen Ralston, The Bloomsburg Daily

Photo courtesy Sue Zarrett

AGAPE Continuing to Help

One of the groups that has taken the lead with flood recovery efforts in Bloomsburg is AGAPE.  The organization is an on-going mission to serve people in need throughout the area.  In the days that have followed the flood, they have been a clearinghouse for donations and volunteers, providing cleaning supplies, clothes, meals, and just about anything else that victims have needed. And those needs are not going away, but they are changing on a daily and weekly basis.  To this point, over 3000 people have volunteered to help AGAPE in the flood recovery.  They have also been in 473 homes and have had out of state groups helping in their effort.

According to Eileen Chapman, the Executive Director, “People have been wonderful.”  She indicated that while volunteer projects had dwindled off lately, they are starting to gear up again. Assessment teams will be in Benton and Catawissa this weekend and volunteers will be needed to help in those independent assessments.  In addition, a few mud out projects remain.  And unfortunately, volunteers are needed to deal with a growing mold problem, a common issue after flooding.  Rainy, damp weather has not been helping in that regard.  Teams will be needed to help people with disinfecting and cleaning that mold.

Moving forward, Chapman feels that financial donations and volunteers will be the most important resources.  As the rebuilding begins, teams will be needed to do drywall and other construction projects.  According to Chapman though, “People shouldn’t rush to put drywall in.  If you put it up when it’s still too wet, you will have mold and you will waste a lot of money.”  She indicated that moisture meters are available for loan at AGAPE.  In addition, AGAPE is looking for a storefront so they can begin to distribute used furniture and appliances.

When asked how residents were coping, Chapman said, “People are coming into reality a little more.  Those who have lost everything were in shock.  They are beginning to come out of it and are trying to move forward.  They are also relieved that nothing seems to be getting any worse at this point.  But in the end, people are resilient.  They are reluctant to ask for help because so many are so much worse off than they are.  But they need to just ask for help.  We may not help that day, but they will definitely get a call that we are coming.”

To help AGAPE with financial donations, send checks to AGAPE, P.O. Box 424, Bloomsburg, PA 17815.  To schedule in-kind donation pick-ups or drop-offs, call 570.317.2210.  In addition, you can email AGAPE at info@AGAPElovefromabove.org.