By Mary Wadland
In Clendenin, West Virginia, the rains did not stop. By June 23, 2016, houses were underwater and lives had been lost. Thousands were homeless. They needed help.
On Friday, June 24, Del Ray residents, Lisa Balzereit, and husband, Chris Hardimon, received a call from longtime friend and West Virginia pastor and retired U.S. Colonel, Mike Todorovich, who said things were bad. Very bad. A man who had never reached to them for help before was asking. And Balzereit and Hardimon got moving.
After getting a list of needed items from Reverend Mike, they reached out through social media and other community sites but did not have a strong response. That is when they turned to whom Balzereit called, “the powerhouses in Del Ray – Jen Walker and Pat Miller – to see if they could bolster some support.”
And things took off.
Sharon Molster, from Black Hills Stables in Great Falls, started a similar supply drive at the same time. The two teams joined forces, and soon, American Moving and Storage worked with Penske to have a 15-foot truck donated, and the Del Ray Business Association, Mind the Mat and several church groups collected necessities and passed the word. Things were pouring in. They even received 30 bags of clothing from a thrift store in Arlington. By Thursday, June 30, the Balzereit-Hardimon front porch was overflowing, with mountains of bags being moved inside to make room for even more donations.
On Friday night and Saturday morning, volunteers were in Great Falls loading donated horse trailers full to the brim, while the Alexandria Penske truck spilled over requiring an additional pickup truck to carry everything.
Both groups headed seven hours west.
“The reception in Clendenin was remarkable. The community was exhausted but so appreciative,” said Balzereit, “They rallied, unloaded the truck and made plans for sorting and distribution. We were struck by the community itself.
People from all over the state were working to help clear out basements of family photos, mementos, and water damaged furniture. The elderly, infirmed and the physically challenged were being tended as food was being prepared and distributed by volunteers.”
While the Virginia caravan was there, an enclave was discovered that had been trapped for eight days without water, electricity and access to the outside world. The roads into the community had washed away. The Del Ray and Great Falls volunteers were immediately part of the effort to identify the most pressing needs and get clean water and hot food to the victims.
“We were humbled by the outpouring of good will from this area. The situation on the ground in West Virginia is horrible. People that lived on the edge have lost everything, but they are concerned about their neighbors and pulling together as a community,” said Balzereit.
She added, “We have been asked to consider helping further after things settle a bit. The library lost all their books to water damage, and there are families that will need everything once they have a chance to find a new place to live. This problem won’t happen for several weeks. The folks in West Virginia have offered to send a truck here to pick up the next collection.”