East Side flood victims scramble to clear homes
Over the weekend, an army of volunteers bustled throughout the effected neighborhoods, clearing out homes and filling dumpsters with debris.
“We’re trying to get the majority of it out of here, but there’s so darn much to do,” said resident Andy Bobick. “The best you can do is just get all the big stuff out while the help is here.”
Bobick, a senior citizen, has lived in his Garden Street home his entire life. The home originally belonged to his parents and was where he grew up. Over the course of his lifetime, he has witnessed the floods of ’36, ’48, ’72 and now 2011, all from within that home, and he claims that the current damage is the most staggering.
“It’s tough to see,” said Bobick. “You don’t know it on the outside, but you feel it on the inside.”
While some volunteers dilligently worked on clearing debris from inside, others stood with Bobick helping him salvage what they could of his photograph collection. But despite the heartache of seeing a lifetime of memories in tattered ruins, he kept his optimism, saying “we just have to accept it. What we think is bad right now will probably be twice as nice later on.”
With so many of the residents on Garden Street being senior citizens, the reliance on volunteers has been tremendous. Tom Savercool, owner of Savercool and Sons Contracting, has been donating his manpower and resources to help victims throughout the area dispose of their debris and powerwash their basements.
“We’re just a small business, but God has been good to me so I want to give a little back,” said Savercool, as he and his men helped clean out the Bobick house. “We donated our men all day yesterday to help clean out houses and today we’re trying to get everything powerwashed.”
Savercool urged all residents on the East Side who haven’t had their first floors and basements cleaned out yet to get their debris cleared, as he and his men will be donating one more day (Monday) to powerwashing flooded homes.
Also providing a lot of much needed manpower was a group of approximately 25 teenagers from Corning who devoted their weekend to helping East Side residents clear out their homes. The teens were all members of the non-denominational youth group Faith By Interation, or FBI, and were very eager to do all they could to help anyone in need.
“Once the flooding happened we decided we wanted to help the people whose homes had been destroyed and restore their homes to good condition,” said 17 year-old Logan Naylor.
“Everyone does it because they want to,” said 14 year-old Katie Butler. “This isn’t mandatory or anything, we all just like helping out.”
And the group doesn’t just limit themselves to helping nearby communities. Last year, FBI raised over $10,000 to build two freshwater wells in a remote village in Sierra Leone, Africa. When asked if all of their volunteerism gets in the way of their social life, none seemed to have any regrets.
“It’s nice because all of my friends are a part of it, too,” said 14 year-old Shania Morse. “So it’s more like fun than work.”
FBI’s involvement was coordinated with the help of Daniel Polinski, who has been a key coordinator for recovery efforts on the East Side. When representatives from the youth group contacted the Red Cross to see where help was needed, they were put in touch with Polinski. In addition to bringing in the youth group from Corning, Polinski has been very successful at rallying local youths to volunteer, as well.
Shortly after the flood, he and several students for Sayre High School worked to set up the Emergency Center by the Ascension of Our Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church (where Polinski is a trustee). The group also cleared out the church’s rectory and convent houses to provide housing for displaced families. However, when given praise for his efforts, Polinski just redirected it toward other volunteers.
“I would nominate Jeff Barber from State Line for sainthood,” Polinski said with a laugh. “He has spent as much time on the East Side as I have throughout all of this.”
Barber, who is the President and owner of the State Line Auto Auction, had not only sent employees and equipment to help clear East Side homes, but did handson manual labor himself.
“When one of the drivers told me they were from State Line, I told him to thank his boss for me,” said Polinski. “The guy turned to me and said ‘you can tell him yourself, he just helped you load that furniture.’”
But even with so many volunteers working so hard, getting homes restored will not come easy. Polinski said he worries about what people will do once the dumpsters get removed Monday.
“If they take them away and don’t replace them, shame on them,” said Polinski. “I don’t think they can really wrap their heads around what it’s like to have seven feet of water flood their first floor and all of the clean-up that entails.”
The Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority — which generously provided the large trailers for debris collection — will begin hauling them to the landfill Monday morning.
“Northern Tier [Solid Waste Authority] has been absolutely great,” said borough manager David Jarrett. “The amount of coordination and cooperation we’ve gotten from them has just been outstanding.”
Anyone on the East Side still needing to remove debris after Monday will either have to bring it to the landfill themselves, or rent a dumpster at their own cost.