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The message was pretty much the same:no matter which homeowner or which town. “We had no other way to get this done. You were just an answer to prayer,” was heard over and over by Henrietta Baptist Church volunteers from flood victims in West Virginia.
Residents in and around Varney, W. Va., were still dealing with the massive amount of mud and other damage left behind after early May flooding. Homes were off their foundations, or had mud-filled basements. Roads were still impassable and often treacherous. Mildewed sheetrock and insulation needed to be removed. It was grueling work.
But the cavalry came, May 25-29, in the form of out-of-town, out-of-state volunteers who had the proper equipment to move the mess out more quickly.
Pastor Mike Hibbard got the call around May 18 requesting the disaster-trained, nine-member team to be ready to leave on Friday, May 22 with the mud out trailer. Hibbard tried to gather his team, but only two were able to get away under such short notice. Hibbard said more could come if they left a few days later, but was told, “We need you now.” So, Hibbard of Richmond and Glen Davison of Lexington left on Memorial Day.
“It was our maiden voyage (for the mud out trailer and disaster training),” said Hibbard.
The assistance effort was organized in connection with the Missouri Baptist Convention, Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“It’s almost like a military command post,” said Hibbard. “You have the ones that wear the white hats at command, and those that wear the blue hats that receive orders from the white hats to get the work done. The workers wear yellow hats.”
The state disaster team is equipped with various trailers throughout the state that can mobilize with trained volunteers quickly. Hibbard said there are two mud out trailers, one childcare unit and one shower/washer-dryer unit, plus three or four feeding units to provide the disaster teams with whatever is needed to perform their jobs.
“The Red Cross provides the food for the feeding units. We cook it and serve it,” said Hibbard. “We chose to sponsor a mud out trailer because we saw the need, and knew the devastation of flooding.” The 1993 flood is still fresh in the minds of residents in Missouri. Ray County was dealt a hard blow, with heavy damages in Henrietta, Orrick and Hardin.
The mud out trailer is 6 x 12 feet, and “not quite big enough,” according to Hibbard. “We use the church van to pull it, but need a 4WD. It rained a lot everyday we were there.”
Most of the work took place in the small town of Varney, which Hibbard described as “about the size of Henrietta.” The command post was set up in Matewan, W. Virg. The 2000 census reported a population of 498.
“Surveyors had already gone in and received requests from homeowners for work to be done. They brought back a report. The assessors would rate each home at level one, two or three. Ones were given first priority,” said Hibbard. “It’s a rather poor community. They had no other resources. They were in a flood plain and couldn’t get any insurance.”
“There were several trailers that had water into the floor. We took out nasty, wet insulation and skirting and bagged it for the Army National Guard. The water had receded some. Most of the flooding and mud was due to strip mining. There was no vegetation to stop the water,’ Hibbard said.
The Red Jacket Community Church had five feet of mud in the basement, and residents had been using a ‘bucket brigade’ in an attempt to haul the mud out. Hibbard said they needed a bobcat, but there wasn’t any way to get it inside.
Working in several houses, volunteers cut the drywall a foot above the water line left by the receding flood waters. Removing the wet drywall and insulation, kitchen cabinets, stove, refrigerator and so forth, it was put out on the curb where the National Guard picked it up.
“They were good about getting things out quickly,” Hibbard replied.
One home was so badly water damaged that volunteers had to remove everything down to the floor joists. It took two to three days to do an average-sized house. Working with a few different crews/teams, Hibbard and Davison helped clean and sanitize three trailers, three regular houses and a garage while there.
“We pressure-washed everything and removed the water with brooms and squeegees. We sanitized everything we cleaned out and set up fans to help it dry faster,” said Hibbard. “We didn’t have the food serving unit with us. We were fed by the Virginia Baptist feeding units at the command center.”
Hibbard and Davison returned on Thursday, May 29. Americorp (college-aged students that volunteer at disasters) was staying a while longer.
“We thank the Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief Program for equipping the mud out trailer,” said Hibbard. “We’re thankful for the donations too and to Henrietta Baptist Church for sponsoring it.”
The team was trained by Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief last year. Those on the mud out trailer spent about four hours in class. Hibbard also attended a chain saw class.
“When we got done with each home, we presented a Bible to the homeowner that everyone on the team had signed,” said Hibbard.
Hibbard would welcome more volunteers.
“We need volunteers! It’s usually a week at a time,” he said. “We’re not committed to go, but asked when a disaster happens. If we’re called up, we volunteer. It’s very hard, very dirty, nasty work – not for the faint of heart, but it’s extremely rewarding.”
The team went to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico the week after Easter on a regular mission trip.
“We spent time at a mission center that, until recently, had no running water and no electricity. We took down 20 donated bicycles from Liberty and several bags of stuffed animals. We had a drawing for the bikes at the mission center,” said Hibbard. “Fifty kids were in the drawing. The ones that got the bikes, when they were riding away from the church, there were at least three kids on each bike. They all had the biggest smiles. It was special to be a part of that.”
The group visited an orphanage, and gave away the stuffed animals, and cookies and drinks. They plan to return to the same area next year and have already scheduled some fundraisers to help with expenses.
“They need some classrooms built at the mission center,” he smiled.
For more information, or to volunteer call the Henrietta Baptist Church at 816-494-5575.