Conference disaster response volunteers sought for flooded town

Eastern PA Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator Bob Simcox is trying to assemble Early Response Teams to help residents of Gilberton rebound from last week’s catastrophic flooding. The high waters just began receding two days ago, making recovery efforts possible.

Historic Gilberton UMC was spared mostly, but not some of its members, possibly including the church organist, and neighbors. Bishop Peggy Johnson plans to join Simcox’s team to work and offer pastoral care to residents on Saturday, June 20. She invites others to join her there. Contact Simcox at  drc@epaumc.org.

The deluge came from rains that overflowed nearby Mahanoy Creek last Thursday, dumping more than eight feet of water on the tiny Schuylkill County borough near Mahanoy City. Now damaged homes direly need removal of soaked drywall and debris by healthy, able volunteers. Volunteers will need to complete forms and ensure that they are healthy to participate.

The Salvation Army is providing meals to area residents, who are mostly elderly and on fixed incomes, and to responders.

“The town has flooded and they are looking for any and all help,” said Simcox, who has been in contact with Lorraine Heckman, the conference’s North District Disaster Response Coordinator and pastor of First UMC in nearby Port Carbon. She is in contact with Bob Schrepple, pastor of Gilberton UMC and with local officials. Simcox also collaborates with VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and PA and Schuylkill County Emergency Management Administrations. All participated in a situation meeting Monday afternoon. Residents also held a town hall meeting Monday evening.

“We, the UMC disaster response team, responded in 2006 when Gilberton flooded,” Simcox said, referring to the town’s last catastrophic flood. This time about 45 homes are flooded, and 16 families had to be housed in hotels.

Simcox wants to hear from anyone who can join his Early Response Team on Saturday or has a Volunteers in Mission team available for future dates. “This may take a few weeks or months to finish,” he said. 

See local coverage of the flood: “ Floodwaters recede in Gilberton”

See video provided by the Rev. Steve Morton, North District Superintendent, who visited Gilberton after the flood.