It wasn’t until I sat down to beg you all for help that the severity of what’s going on in the flood zones really hit me and I started bawling. If you want to understand why, go watch this video from the Lewis County Chronicle website. I really need your help everybody.
I spent yesterday demolishing a single mother’s home in hopes of saving it. The main floor of her small house was filled with muddy contaminated water during this week’s record-breaking flood in western Washington. Apparently the water rose so fast that she and her 3 children were unable to get home and move their belongings from the main floor to safety.
4 days later while my 4 girlfriends and I were tearing the sheetrock and insulation from the walls of her home with hammers and shovels, she was still hauling her filthy belongings to temporary housing in garbage bags. A few of her children’s homemade Christmas decorations still clung to the higher walls.
Over 1600 homes were flooded in this disaster, the majority of which have no flood insurance. Businesses have been wiped out. As sad as it was to see Wal-Mart under water and Home Depot condemned, the hardest thing is to know that many small businesses may never recover. So even as their homes are destroyed, their livelihoods may be cut off as well, right at the busiest time of the year for many businesses.
One of my friends kept asking the disaster relief workers what the people would do now that their homes and belongings had been destroyed. Several families are walking away from homes and businesses with no idea what they will do next. The fact that Christmas is almost upon us is the least of their worries.
It was incredibly humbling to drive past homes and farms that had been completely submerged, some blasted by 14 feet of filthy water. Farms that have been handed down for generations are destroyed, their owners left with nothing. Some had to shoot their own livestock so they wouldn’t suffer while drowning. There are cars and farming equipment still under water or stuck in mud and much of it is completely unusable. We saw toys, clothes and furniture several feet up in trees. People are in shock. One elderly woman was found sitting alone in her mud-drenched home staring straight ahead, unable to move. It’s a daunting task and several hours of hard labor yield negligible results. It’s hard not to be discouraged by the slow pace of the progress.
One of the hardest hit areas is in Lewis county around Chehalis, a couple of hours south of where we live in the Seattle suburbs. My good friend grew up in Chehalis and her father is still a dentist and farmer in that area who, as a volunteer LDS church leader, is helping head up relief efforts. Taking few breaks to eat or rest, he has spent the past several days driving from home to home assessing needs, helping with cleanup, distributing donations and organizing hundreds of volunteers.
Several local churches of various faiths have been turned into shelters and clothing and food distribution centers. People are coming from all over the US to serve and help with cleanup. The main non-denominational relief organizations serving the area are the United Way and the Red Cross and they are doing amazing work.
I sent out an email to the women of my congregation asking for clothing, food and tool donations and within hours, we had a garage full of supplies which Dan drove down early this morning on his way to help with cleanup. When I got home from Chehalis last night, I talked to my neighbors about what I’d seen and they came up with 3 boxes of helpful donations.
Do you live nearby? Would you like to help with cleanup or reconstruction? Do you live far away? Would you like to help these people put their lives back together? Each year at Christmas we try to find someone in need who we can serve, something we should actually be doing all year long. This year the choice seems obvious for us. I can’t remember a time when I felt more blessed and more of an urge to give everything I can to help someone else. Even Laylee has gathered a mountain of clothes, toys and blankets in her room to take to the “flood people.”
I’m gathering monetary donations which I will use to purchase gift cards to Home Depot and other local businesses with much-needed supplies. We will drive these cards down to Lewis County and, with the direction of local relief workers, give them to the flood victims to meet their immediate needs. Personally, I believe that people are capable of reaching out and helping each other directly.
Obviously I am not a registered charity so I do not have a Tax ID to give you a receipt for deductions. However, if you have $2 or $2000 that you’d like to go directly to people in dire need this Christmas, and you trust me to get it to them, I know that together we can do a lot of good. If you’re more comfortable going the traditional route, please consider making a donation through The Red Cross or The United Way.
All money that comes into my account for the rest of the year will go 100% to help rebuild the hardest hit areas of Washington. The people are cold, they’re wet and they need our help and prayers.
If you have a blog, please pass this information along to your readers. You can lift the graphic from the top and any photos from this post and post a link back to this entry. Email me if you have any questions and please help these people any way you can. Imagine what it would be like to lose everything all at once with little or no warning. THANK YOU!