March came in like a mighty lion for people living near the Ohio River. Up to 12 inches of rain engorged streams and creeks. As news of flooding spread, Lutheran churches offered aid.
In Pickerington, Ohio, Jim Popishil, a member of Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church and owner of Freedom Trucking, suggested his trucks could deliver supplies. Within a few days, a truck full of donated cleaning supplies, bottled water, bedding, personal care items, food and clothing was on its way to Portsmouth, Ohio. Parishioners followed the truck to distribute the goods and offer other help.
Across the river in Kentucky, Bethel Lutheran Church, Russell, was the hub of relief activities for neighboring communities. "Many of these people were barely making it to begin with. This flood has them in shock," said Helen Westphal of Bethel.
The church is also helping the survivors use resources carefully. Federal emergency grants reportedly total $1,200. "When you've lost everything, that doesn't go very far," said David Westphal, pastor of Bethel. "We try to counsel them now to make the wisest use of this money to get them started again."
On March 21-22, volunteers participated in cleanup at various sites. Most teams helped clean in and around people's homes.
Some crews helped families pack their remaining belongings. Most of Rhonda and Robert Engle's possessions, however, were thrown away after their house was declared uninhabitable due to chemical and sewage runoff. The Engles are members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Ironton, Ohio.
A group from Trinity Lutheran Church, Circleville, Ohio, went to Hitchens [Ky.] Elementary School, where they cleaned up after 5 feet of water, retyped a Rolodex and helped recover school records. In March, Southern Ohio Synod churches contributed $20,000 for relief efforts.
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