Shenandoah Junction couple join with Samaritan’s Purse to aid flood victims
Keith and Giordana Baker, of Shenandoah Junction, set off to Lewisburg with a trailer full of supplies for the flood victims on Sunday July 3. The supplies had been gathered by members of Fellowship Bible Church and other friends of the Bakers.
The couple joined Samaritan’s Purse upon arrival and worked on two homes in White Sulphur Springs from July 4-6.
“We volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse because they are a reputable organization that doesn’t charge the homeowners a dime for any work they do,” Giordana said.
“The motto on the shirts they give volunteers is ‘Helping in Jesus’ Name.’ They really do stress that we are the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Bob Pierce founded and led the ministry of Samaritan’s Purse in 1970 after visiting suffering children on the Korean island of Koje-do. Bob Pierce died of leukemia in 1978, and a little over a year later, Franklin Graham became the president and Chairman of the Board of the organization.
The website of Samaritan’s Purse quotes: “Go and do likewise,” which is what Christ commanded after explaining the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
“So we do” Graham said. Samaritan’s Purse is said to travel the world’s highways looking for victims along the way.
“We are quick to bandage the wounds we see, but like the Samaritan, we don’t stop there. In addition to meeting immediate, emergency needs, we help these victims recover and get back on their feet,” the website says.
Samaritan’s Purse mobilizes staff and equipment and enlists thousands of volunteers to provide emergency aid to victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters in the United States. We often stay behind after our initial response to rebuild or restore houses for needy families. The group was on the ground shortly after torrential rains wreaked havoc on areas surrounding White Sulphur Springs and Charleston.
Giordana Baker described her first impression of the flood-ravaged area as “unreal.”
“Pictures can’t capture the damage that water did. One street would be fine and the next street over every house suffered damage,” she explained. There was no rhyme or reason of what was damaged and what escaped devastation.
While with Samaritan’s Purse, the Bakers worked alongside a group of about 8-10 people each day.
Volunteers came from all across the country to help those in need in West Virginia. While there were many from the mountain state, Giordana said they were joined by volunteers from as far away as Michigan and Kentucky while they were there.
“We had a team leader who was responsible, among other things, for making sure the work was correctly and neatly,” she said.
The work consisted of ripping out sheet rock.
“Both homes we worked on we cut about two feet above the water line or four feet up the wall,” she explained. “We made sure we got all the damaged parts out. The cuts had to be straight. Once sheet rock was down we would pull all nails out so when new sheet rock went up there was nothing left behind to obstruct it.”
“We also tore out bathrooms, kitchen, (mainly lower cabinets) and all flooring. One home had three layers of flooring.”
Giordana shared that many were on “mud out” details and were responsible for cleaning mud of of basements and other areas.
“The first homeowners we helped shared part of their story and it was unreal,” Giordana repeated.
“The neighbors home was built on a knoll and was spared. She was able to get her kids to the neighbors house when she saw the water coming. She left to help another neighbor, but the water came to swiftly and she ended up in a tree. She was in that tree for 12 hours. Neighbors tried to rescue her, but couldn’t reach her. They capsized their canoe trying to reach her and had to be rescued themselves. She said she was afraid the tree would be swept away, but it held,” Giordana related.
That family plans now to live in their garage, after it is completely cleaned up while they rebuild their home.
“This family has four children,” Giordana said, trying to imagine how those living arrangements will work.
In moving to another home, Giordana said, “From another home we worked on across the creek we counted eight foundations. One home was still there, but off its foundation and the others were gone. One exploded, with the homeowner inside. She later died from her injuries,” Giordana said.
As the Bakers stopped in a store in one of the flooded areas, they were told by the clerk that while her home had been spared, she had watched everything unfold as she worked.
“Even though she and her home weren’t affected she was affected by the flood,” Giordana said. “I think everyone was affected in some way.”
One thing Giordana commented on was the concern over where people use the bathroom when there is no electricity or running water, if there even is a bathroom.
“Thankfully someone, the state, county, city of White Sulphur Springs or a company, put portable toilets out every few blocks for residents and volunteers to use,” she said.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers will address the needs of many more homeowners over the coming weeks. The needs are great and continue to grow throughout flood-affected areas.