Flood Hits N.C. County; Glenmary Mission Responds
Heavy rains struck the East Coast the first weekend of October 2010, causing major flooding in Eastern North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania and New England.
But according to the North Carolina emergency response team, the state's Bertie County was the hardest-hit and most heavily damaged of any area. This county is home to the Catholic Community of Bertie County, a Glenmary mission pastored by Father Chet Artysiewicz and located in the county seat of Windsor.
"We had about 20 inches of rain," says Father Chet. "A number of families had to be evacuated from their homes, including six families who are members of our mission. And three of those families had their homes damaged."
Since the mission's founding in 2004, the Catholic community has been using the worship space at the Windsor United Methodist Church for Sunday liturgies. Although the Methodist church wasn't damaged by the recent flood, the water covering the streets made it inaccessible on Sunday, Oct. 3. So that day, Father Chet celebrated Mass at his house with about 50 people "packed in."
While the floodwaters have now receded, the massive cleanup continues. Most of the downtown Windsor area has been devastated, as it was by Hurricane Floyd in 1999, says a county commissioner. Townspeople were surprised by the extent of the flooding, because the 1999 disaster was supposed to be a 500-year flood.
Bertie County requested state and federal emergency aid. And individual flood victims are waiting to see what assistance they may receive from insurance carriers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Father Chet reports that piles of debris and damaged materials from buildings and houses are still lining the streets. And cleaning up and restoring the area to normalcy will be a long process. But the Catholic Community of Bertie County pastoral team and parishioners have been in action, providing help as soon as possible after the flood.
According to Jason Muhlenkamp, a Glenmary student assigned to the mission, he and other pastoral team members Father Chet, Brothers Jack Henn and Curtis Kedley, and student Clive Otieno have been working with parishioners to assist affected mission members and their neighbors in need. "A number of us have been helping with the clean-up work," Jason says. "Also, some parishioners opened up their homes to people who might need a temporary place to stay. And others even volunteered to do laundry for flood victims."
The mission has received numerous calls from people requesting help in the wake of the flood. And Father Chet and Brothers Jack and Curt have been working to coordinate assistance efforts. Father Chet announced at the Oct. 3 Mass that some limited emergency funds were available from the mission for flood victims, and he has also provided counseling and advice to people. In addition, Catholic Charities has furnished a quantity of Food Lion gift cards to the mission for distribution to anyone in need-with the prospect of more help to come.
The local, ecumenical Good Samaritan Food Pantry—where Brothers Jack and Curt are very active—also has food gift cards available for flood victims referred by the county emergency management office and the Bertie County Fire Department Association.
"We've just kept trying to help people during this crisis," says Father Chet. "There's still a lot of work to be done."