By Ellen Udovich, BCM/D Missionary for disaster relief
DUNDALK, Md.—The BCM/D Disaster team was on the scene in Dundalk last month just days after a six-foot-wide water main broke, on Sept. 18, flooding local communities. Water rose to car handles. A section of Broening Highway collapsed. People were shocked. Their cars and homes flooded, they had no electricity. Some were trapped in their homes for some time as they watched the water rise. Roads were closed.
George Blevins, BCM/D Disaster Relief director and Mike Hayden, Disaster Relief Chaplain team leader, met with the American Red Cross and the Baltimore County incident command to determine what role local churches could help with in assisting families affected by the flooding.
On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 20, church volunteers as well as trained Disaster Relief volunteers from local churches including First Church, Dundalk, Middle River and Patterson Park Church, gathered at the Red Cross mobile command center set up in the Logan Village Shopping Center directly across the street from the broken water main. The Red Cross provided a list of all the homes damaged by the floodwaters. The volunteers divided into teams and went door-to-door with the Red Cross lists, checking on each family and offering to assist with cleaning out basements, carrying damaged items out of the homes and other such services.
Other volunteers wheeled coolers filled with ice and bottled water up and down the affected streets and alleys offering cold drinks and encouragement to residents and workers. Since most houses were without electricity, the cold water was especially appreciated.
Some workers remained at the Red Cross trailer and helped distribute cases of water and cleaning supplies to residents in need. As the supplies were given out, volunteers asked, “How can I pray for you?
“Every person we encountered gave specific prayer requests and allowed us to pray for them, some even reaching out to take our hand or hug us,” Blevins said.
The following week, Blevins once again met with the Baltimore County emergency planners. Since many people had lost hot water heaters, washers and dryers in the flooding, the response center was receiving requests for laundry assistance.
Blevins contacted First Church, Upper Marlboro, and requested the deployment of their Disaster Relief laundry unit. (This laundry unit also served in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and Houston following Hurricane Ike). The laundry trailer was moved up to Dundalk and was set up at the Waters Edge Community Center. Baltimore County Department of Public Works assisted by connecting the laundry trailer to the fire hydrant and public sewer system. The laundry trailer is equipped with four washers and dryers, as well as tables for folding clothes. The equipment ran off of propane as well as gasoline generators. During the five days the laundry unit operated, volunteers from First Church, Upper Marlboro, Taneytown Church, Middle River Church, First Church, Dundalk, Linthicum Church and Patterson Park Church, served in shifts, completing 91 loads of laundry. Some families brought clothing and bed sheets still damp from the floodwater. Families without cars walked several blocks to bring laundry, with children lugging bags of clothing alongside their parents.
The volunteers made a special effort to encourage the families they served and struck up friendships with several neighbors. One particular young man who lived nearby came over daily to help the volunteers, mostly women, move the generators and propane tanks in and out of the trailer. He began to share his story and listened as his new friends shared their stories. At the end of the week, he offered his contact information to the team so that they could connect him to a local church.