FEMA Working to Deliver Trailers

Slightly over two months have passed since the historic flooding of Tropical Storm Lee pounded the Bloomsburg area. In the wake of the disaster, the need to find homes for hundreds of displaced people has taken center stage. The number of rental properties and existing homes for sale pales in comparison to the overall need. FEMA has been working in 14 hour shifts to be ready in time for Thanksgiving at Stony Brook Circle near Lightstreet. The long awaited trailers will allow flood victims who qualify to live in them rent-free for up to 18 months. That is very welcomed news as the holidays approach. FEMA is reportedly placing 20 of the trailers. William Todd Heiss set out today to see the progress for himself and shares the images below.

Mayor and Town Representatives Show Strong Front in D.C.

On Wednesday, November 2nd, Mayor Dan Knorr, members of the Bloomsburg Town Council, the Bloomsburg Area Joint Flood Control Authority, the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, Rieter Automotive, Windsor Foods, the Bloomsburg Fair Association and the Columbia County Commissioners met with US Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Lou Barletta, and staff from Senator Pat Toomey’s office to discuss federal government support for floodwall protection along the Susquehanna River and lower Fishing Creek.

Ostensibly what appeared to be yet another in a long series of meetings with federal government representatives and officials, instead presented a strong, united front of local government, business, and community leaders. Local representatives traveled to Washington to impress the common goal of preserving local industry and jobs, and sparing the residents of Bloomsburg yet another devastating experience.

Speaking of the importance of bringing community leaders together for a face to face meeting with federal legislators, Mayor Knorr stated “They have a lot of issues [to deal with]. They’re physically removed in DC and we wanted to be sure they knew what is a priority for us.”

“They were impressed at the broad range of cooperation, and that made a difference to them. Seeing them eye to eye, that we’re all on the same page, that was a primary purpose of this meeting.”

Council Member Diane Levan agreed. “They were amazed at how everyone had come together on this,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it took this disaster, but they welcomed us, listened, were very concerned with our priorities and met with us in good faith.”

In addition to the unified front and goodwill felt at the meeting, both Mayor Knorr and Council Member Levan emphasized the specifics of what help Bloomsburg needed from the federal government. In particular this means a new Cost-Benefit analysis performed by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine to what extent, or if, the federal government would provide funding for the floodwall project.

“We know that [money] is tight at the federal level,” said Mayor Knorr. “This doesn’t mean projects aren’t happening, but they need to be prioritized.”

Although Senator Toomey was unable to attend this meeting in person due to commitments on the US Congressional Budgetary Supercommittee, sending instead members of his legislative staff, the Senator has already sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, asking them to complete a new Cost-Benefit analysis for Bloomsburg in light of the recent flooding. The Senator’s letter identified the new analysis as “imperative” and “vitally important.”

The common front presented by community leaders, and their insistence on a specific course of federal action is already seeming to have an effect. Both Mayor Knorr and Council Member Levan expect the Army Corps of Engineers to begin their new analysis by the end of the year, possibly within the month.

“We also got commitment for follow up with [the Senators, Congressman, and their staffs] by the end of 2011,” said Mayor Knorr. “If not a new meeting with the representatives directly, then either a conference call or a meeting with their staff in Bloomsburg by the end of the year.”

“We can give millions to other countries when there are floods,” said Council Member Levan. “But manufacturing jobs are hard to come by. It’s going to take some meaningful effort to help the people in our own town who have gone through so much.”

Flood Help and Events

Julie Kuntz Klingerman is the adminstrator of the Helping Neighbors – Bloomsburg Flood 2011 Facebook group.  She will be helping us compile flood-related help and events.

The “Turn the Page” book drive is in full swing at the Columbia Mall near Dunham’s.  Over 30,000 books are available for children of all ages who have lost their libraries.  The books are being handed out for free, and children of all ages may choose up to a dozen books.  The hours are:

 

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – Closed
Thursday – 4:00 – 7:00
Friday – 4:00 – 7:00
Saturday – 1:00 – 7:00
Sunday – 1:00 – 5:00

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AGAPE still needs volunteers as the continually changing needs of the community evolve.  Specifically, help is needed:

  • at the information desk on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p. m. answering the phone, handing out applications, and filling supplies requests.
  • at the storehouse to lift, load and unload store donations, sort clothing, and help fill supply requests from the information desk
  • at Freedom Hall at the fairgrounds to load and unload furniture on Monday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • for Flood Survivor Recovery Assistance as experienced caseworkers or those willing to be trained
  • for skilled dry-wallers, licensed electricians and licensed plumbers

AGAPE may be contacted at 317-2210 or at agaperelief@gmail.com

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The Bloomsburg Area YMCA will be hosting a ZUMBA party November 5th from 4 – 6 p.m. to raise money for AGAPE.  Admission is $10; free for AGAPE volunteers with badge.  Zumba-wear t-shirts are available for $10, with all proceeds benefitting AGAPE as well.

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The Catawissa Christian Church, 102 Main Street is offering clothing, some furniture, large and small appliances, toys, pet supplies, and a variety of food and household items to flood victims on Saturday, November 5th from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.  *No FEMA numbers required, no questions asked.*  The church is also accepting donations that may be dropped off outside the door of the church on Monday-Friday from 4:30 – 9:00 p.m.  Needed:  men’s, women’s,  and children’s clothing, especially for winter, canned goods, bedding, towels, dishes, Christmas decorations, pet supplies, books, and small appliances.  To donate furniture, please call ahead: Coleen, 594-2750, Maureen, 441-2749 or Sue, 356-2364.

Julie Kuntz Klingerman for The Bloomsburg Daily

Donors Help Magic Carpet Preschool Get Back to Barton Street

When Penny Pomfret, director of Magic Carpet Preschool in Bloomsburg, dismissed her students early on September 7th from their Barton Street location, she was thinking about flooding but was focusing on the potential for losses in the school’s basement. “I did not realize how destructive the flood would be until I woke up Thursday morning after it had already happened. We went to bed Wednesday evening believing [the river] would crest at 28 feet, much less than Agnes.”  Because the school’s current location was not flooded during Agnes, the main concerns were water in the basement and the potential loss of the furnace or hot water heater.  After the river and Fishing Creek hit record levels, the reality of the damage was devastating.

The basement was inundated and even the classrooms on the main floor had approximately a foot of water.  The majority of all classroom materials, toys, books, furniture, and supplies were lost.   The school was closed for seven days and was forced to relocate to the Wesley United Methodist Church, which generously provided space to both Magic Carpet Preschool and the Columbia County Child Development Program.  According to Pomfret, “Parents, children, and teachers adapted well to our new surroundings and the people at the church have been most kind and welcoming to us. Pastor Jay Jones even let us store our salvageable belongings in his garage!”

And even though the mission of the school is to facilitate learning for 3-5 year olds with a hands-on problem solving approach, no one was prepared for the amount of “hands on” and “problem solving” that they would all have to engage in.   The facility would need to be gutted and essentially rebuilt.  And because the school was founded in 1973, nearly 40 years of acquired learning materials were lost.

But Pomfret says the network of people who were concerned about Magic Carpet Preschool instantly stepped up to help with the rebuilding process, “In the days following the flood, there was a huge outpouring of support from alumni, parents, and friends on various Facebook sites. It was heartwarming and firmed up my commitment to continue the school.  Many alums, parents, friends, and people who heard about the school have sent contributions, toys, and supplies.”

Two such people were Sue Van Kirk and Tricia Cossick, both of State College, who found out about the disastrous flooding primarily through Facebook.  Van Kirk grew up in Harrisburg where river levels were often talked about.  In addition, her parents were from Mt. Carmel and her mother and grandmother both have degrees from Bloomsburg University.  She talked with her own daughters and her Brownie Troop about the losses and the children instantly wanted to do something.  “The kids were saying things like, ‘I feel really bad for the children who lost everything in the flooding.  They don’t have any toys. Can we do something?'”  Van Kirk sent an email to troop parents and they gathered items at their next two meetings.  In the end, 7 girls collected over 100 items for the school:  a dollhouse, a princess pop-up tent, puzzles, books, art supplies, and more.  According to Van Kirk, who hand delivered the donations to Pomfret, “Even I was surprised and touched by the generosity.”

Tricia Cossick also learned about the severity of the flooding through Facebook.  Cossick is the Director of OCC Montessori Preschool, so she was instantly sympathetic to a preschool losing nearly everything they owned. “When I heard that a longstanding quality preschool program had been swept away in flood waters, I felt like I wanted to do something to make a difference.”  Cossick is now in contact with the parents from her school, as well as other State College preschools in order to collect gently-used preschool furniture, educational toys, and books to donate to Magic Carpet, as well as other affected preschools in the area.  She is currently storing the items and will deliver them to Bloomsburg when the collection is complete.

While Pomfret had some hesitation about reinvesting in the current location, she feels a commitment to the preschool children and their families.  “No one can predict the future.  Right now we are concentrating on getting Magic Carpet up and running at Barton Street.”

Apparently that concentration has paid off.  Pomfret now reports that the Barton Street location of Magic Carpet will be re-opened to students on Thursday, November 3rd.  Pomfret is amazed, “The outpouring of support has been unbelievable!”

Magic Carpet Preschool can be contacted at 570-784-9282 .  The Columbia County Child Development Program can be contacted at 570-784-8618.

(Full disclosure:  Kristin Zeisloft Camplese is an alumna of Magic Carpet Preschool)

Time is Running Out – Only Two Weeks Left to Register for Disaster Aid

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Survivors of the storms and flooding that ravaged central and eastern Pennsylvania have only two weeks left to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance. The deadline to register is November 14, 2011.

Individuals who live, work, or own a business in the 29 Pennsylvania counties designated under the disaster declarations for Hurricane Irene and Tropical Strom Lee are eligible. The counties are Adams, Berks, Bradford, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming, and York.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and FEMA urge those who sustained disaster-related losses to register by the deadline, even if they are unsure of their eligibility.

November 14 is also the deadline to apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan. For information about SBA loan applications, visit www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance or call the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955. Those with speech or hearing difficulties may dial 1-800-877-8339. Loan application forms can also be downloaded from www.sba.gov.

There are four ways to register with FEMA:

  1. Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Operators assist callers seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Help is available in most languages. If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 1-800-462-7585.
  2. Register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
  3. Register using a tablet or smartphone by visiting m.fema.gov.
  4. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362.

If you have a disability and need help registering, please contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 and ask for assistance.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status.  If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 1-800-462-7585.

Article Courtesy of FEMA

 

Your Thoughts: Building Permit Fees for Flood Victims

The Town Council meeting last night was not the only place where the issue of building permit fees for flood victims was discussed.  Our article commenters and Facebook groups have contributed many interesting and thought-provoking viewpoints on the subject.  (Original article, Building Permit Fees Cause Lively Town Council Debate).  Add your comments here if you haven’t had a chance to weigh in on the discussion.

Here are some of the opinions of our readers:

This is a very sticky situation. Could they possibly reduce the fees for flood victims? — Diane

Building permits cover the cost of a building inspector checking to make sure work is in code. This protects the property owner from shabby work from a contractor and people who purchase the house in the future. It’s part of owning a property. BUT, have you ever heard of a building inspector really doing a thorough job? It’s a joke. If He or she shows up, they talk to the contractor for a few minutes and leave. Things have to be pretty bad for him to stop the work and demand repairs. I can’t see a person who has $15,000 in flood repairs paying $150.00 in what is just ultimately a tax. I don’t know how many inspectors Bloomsburg has but lets guess 2. How can two people get around to every flooded home in Bloomsburg at the different stages the contractor needs him to inspect? He can’t, so why charge the people a fee for a service you can’t provide? — Ethan

We waived the fee for flood properties only in Hemlock Twp. for one year … if they rebuild they must rebuilt to the current flood zoning. — Rob

It will be interesting to see if FEMA money will be allocated to the town. I believe it is imperative to the town’s recovery. If the town were to receive some aid it would have more flexibilty to waive certain costs to property owners like building permit fees. Raising local taxes (flood tax) or placing the burden on individuals affected by this disaster may be unavoidable if the town doesn’t receive federal or state aid. — Michael

I’m sure a lot of the property owners have flood insurance which would pay for permitting costs and if they did I dont think it would be fair to push these costs to tax payers. I felt the same way with all disposal fees. However if some were on fixed incomes with no insurance then reduced costs would be fine. — Lee

Some folks have insurance, some do not either way I believe fees should be reduced for everyone to be fair. A lot of home now are undergoing repairs and probably have not gone through the permitting process. The town needs to recover its costs too. — Todd

I believe that we should have reduced fees for the flood victims. Some fee no matter how small should be required because, this would make monitoring where and how homes are rebuilt easier. — Barb

Photo by teofilo

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

Disasters Can Severely Impact the Elderly

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The losses following Pennsylvania’s storms and flooding last month may be magnified for the elderly.

Seniors previously living on their own may be dependent on others for food, shelter and the necessities of daily living. Those used to assisted living may face upheaval in their normal routines or a change in their usual caregivers.

Additionally, the stress of the disaster itself can cause significant challenges.

Symptoms of stress unique to the elderly include:

  • Reliving events in their lives when they were traumatized or suffered severe losses.
  • Fear of losing their independence or self-sufficiency.
  • Fear of a decline in health and limitations on mobility.
  • Worry about limited financial resources, time, and physical ability to rebuild.
  • Fear of being put in an institution.
  • Withdrawal and isolation from family and friends.

When working with older adults after a disaster, it is important to:

  • Provide consistent verbal reassurance.
  • Assist them in recovering their physical possessions.
  • Return them to familiar surroundings with friends and acquaintances as soon as possible.
  • Make sure they have needed medical and financial assistance.
  • Help them re-establish social networks.
  • Monitor their nutritionaland medication needs.

For more information about behavioral health services available in your area, contact your county crisis hotline or mental health office. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional information about this disaster is available at www.fema.gov, and www.readypa.org.

Article courtesy of FEMA

Photo courtesy of Bloomsburg Health System

 

Kiwanis and Fashion Delivers Bring Clothing to Flood Victims

Social Clubs and Industry Organizations alike have come together to assist those who lost much in the recent flooding. One such example is the partnership between The Bloomsburg Kiwanis Club and Fashion Delivers Charitable Foundation, Inc.An association of both wholesale and retail fashion industry vendors, Fashion Delivers coordinates with a global network of more than one thousand local agencies, providing aid to those in need, as well as economic and philanthropic alternatives for companies disposing of their excess inventory.

Marianne Kreisher Fogelsanger, a Bloomsburg native, attorney at Kreisher & Gregorowicz, and President of the Bloomsburg Chapter of Kiwanis International, worked along with Kiwanis volunteers to help Fashion Delivers provide an outlet for their donations to the Bloomsburg area.

Mrs. Fogelsanger first learned of the Fashion Delivers program through friends in the Bloomsburg Natives Flood Relief Group on Facebook. At the time, Fashion Delivers had no local contacts who were able to accept their offered donations.

“After the flood and the devastation suffered by so many of our friends and neighbors, we were looking for a way to help,” said Mrs. Fogelsanger. “In the early days after the flood, AGAPE was unable to accept clothing, and there really needed to be one centralized place for clothing.”

Without a local contact, Fashion Delivers intended to make donations through a charity in Philadelphia, which would then redistribute the items to Bloomsburg. Through the efforts of The Bloomsburg Kiwanis, however, Fashion Delivers was able to assist Bloomsburg directly.

“Fashion Delivers had over 50 boxes of new clothing items to deliver and we wanted to find a place that could serve as a centralized distribution point,” stated Mrs. Fogelsanger. “The donation consist[ed] of women’s dress and casual clothing along with limited men’s clothing. We also had donations from Milco Industries of undergarments, and from K-Mart of socks and children’s pajamas.”

Having accepted these donations, The Bloomsburg Kiwanis then needed a place where local residents could benefit from this generosity.

“We called Dr. Gary Finnegan and he graciously donated the space of the old Blockbuster storefront so that we would have a point for distribution. I coordinated with AGAPE and they made arrangements to have volunteers at the storefront to accept the donations, organize, sort and distribute. Any flood victim is welcome to visit the Blockbuster store and pick up some new clothing.”

Mrs. Fogelsanger stated that people who accept these donations, do need to provide their FEMA number.

The Fashions Delivers donations also were able to help local high school students just before Homecoming. “Some of the dresses that were donated by Fashion Delivers were given to the Bloomsburg High School who had a homecoming and prom dress giveaway,” said Mrs. Fogelsanger. “Flood victims from our area and as far away as Selinsgrove took advantage of this generosity. The students and their families were so appreciative. It gave the kids a sense of normalcy, at a time when they really needed it.”

The donations haven’t ceased. Mrs. Fogelsanger reported that an additional 50 boxes of name-brand clothing were delivered last week.  What they lack now, however, are volunteers to help staff the distribution center.

At the moment Fashion Delivers donations are still being distributed at the old Blockbuster location, from 9 AM to 2 PM Monday through Friday, and 10 AM to 12 Noon on Saturdays.

Regarding these donations and the efforts of the Bloomsburg Kiwanis, Mrs. Fogelsanger said, “It has been wonderful that the Bloomsburg Kiwanis has been able to help our friends and neighbors that have suffered such great loss from the flooding. Hopefully, having some new clothing will be a start in helping them get their lives back to a sense of normalcy. We are so thankful that we were able to help.”

If you would like to help Kiwanis distribute these donations, please contact Marianne Fogelsaner by email at mkf@columbiacountylaw.com or her office phone, 570-784-5211. You may also contact AGAPE at 570-317-2210

Look Out for Signs of Post-Disaster Stress

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The initial trauma from Pennsylvania’s two late-summer disasters – Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee – has passed, but the psychological effects can linger.

Stress caused by loss or a traumatic experience can sneak up on people and influence behavior and emotions. The elderly and children are particularly vulnerable to stress after a disaster and may require special considerations.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have developed a list of things to look for and tips for helping yourself and others get through this difficult time. Some common signs of stress are:

  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Replaying the events and circumstances of the disaster over and over in your mind.
  • Anxiety or fear, especially when things remind you of the traumatic experience.
  • Feeling depressed, sad or down much of the time.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Nightmares.
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.

Stress isn’t just emotional. It can manifest in physical sensations like fatigue, stomachaches or diarrhea, headaches, sweating or chills, chest pain, or a rapid heartbeat. Changes in behavior also can signal that you are under stress. Do you withdraw or isolate yourself, even from family and friends? Are you restless or prone to emotional outbursts? Do you startle easily?

Here are some common-sense measures to help you overcome stress and get you back to yourself again.

  • Friends and family are good medicine. Talk with them about your feelings. Sharing common experiences helps you deal with and overcome anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
  • Get back into your daily routines as soon as you can.
  • Maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep.
  • Find ways to relax. Do a fun thing after a difficult or stressful task.
  • Get some physical exercise every day. Walking is a great stress reliever and you can do it with a friend or relative.

Know that feeling stressed, depressed, guilty or angry is common after a traumatic event. Watch out for problems that are more than you can handle. If signs of stress are serious or if they persist, you should see a counselor or other mental health professional.

For more information about behavioral health services available in your area, please contact your county crisis hotline or mental health office. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Additional information about this disaster is available at www.fema.gov, and www.readypa.org.

Article courtesy of FEMA