Jacque Riley said "Methodist angels" helped repair her home in Middleburgh, NY. She moved back in eight months after Hurricane Irene struck.
'Methodist Angels' Rebuild NY Town
By Susan Kim*
June 19, 2012—Marian McKiernan is standing in her 1890-era home in Middleburgh, NY, gazing at photos taken on Aug. 29, 2011—the day after Hurricane Irene sent muddy river water swirling through the entire first floor. As the windows broke under the weight of water, mud and debris cascaded into virtually every room.
In the eight months since then, with the help of volunteers, she has been repairing her house and slowly regaining a sense of normalcy. She arranges her photos on stacks of new drywall that will go up within a few days. “For so many weeks after the flood, I felt like my equilibrium was off,” she said. “But now, for the first time, I'm starting to feel like myself again.”
McKiernan is just one of many flood survivors in Middleburgh who say they're grateful for volunteers—many of them sent through Volunteers in Mission—who care enough to come and help long after this town's disaster has left the headlines.
Post-flood assessments show that at least half the homes in Middleburgh—population 3,000—had flood damage.
Jack Hill, project manager for the Upper New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, knows well what hardship this brings to people's lives. For several months, Hill has been organizing and overseeing volunteer teams that travel to Middleburgh for a week or two, residing at the Middleburgh UMC as they work to repair homes.
UMCOR has been supporting the conference as it continues to respond to flood survivors in upper New York, first with an influx of more than 2,000 cleaning buckets, then with 2011 grants totaling $20,000, followed by a 2012 grant of $100,000 to keep up the momentum on long-term recovery.
When Hill walks into the Kay's Diner on Main Street, he's greeted warmly. “Do you know who this is?” the patrons ask, and then quickly answer: “He's the man who's rebuilding Middleburgh.”
But Hill gives all the credit to the volunteers—and the residents themselves. “These volunteers not only fix houses, they also fix people's lives just by showing up to help. And I love this community. The valley really is gorgeous. The people take pride in it, and they have a drive to recover.”
More than eight months after the flood, some Middleburgh residents are just now admitting they need some help. “There's a monumental task here,” said Hill.
That task feels a little lighter for homeowner Jacque Riley. In her mid-80s, Riley's husband died 11 years ago. Volunteers have repaired her home enough so that she was able to move back again in late April.
The river carved away 30 feet of her backyard and many old trees. Riley said her surroundings will never look the same but it feels wonderful to be back home with her dog, Treasure.
“Those volunteers have been wonderful,” she said. “I call them my Methodist angels. I hope that name sticks.”
Help UMCOR support volunteer teams as they rebuild homes and rebuild lives. Give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670.