WESTERN NEW YORK: Diocese seeks relief for flood victims

August 17, 2009

As flood waters recede in the villages of Gowanda and Silver Creek, the Diocese of Western New York is seeking relief and organizing a corps of volunteers to assist with the cleanup.

Severe thunderstorms and torrential rain that began on August 9 and continued throughout the night caused the flash floods in parts of Western New York. New York Governor David A. Paterson subsequently declared the region a disaster area.

"We will be coordinating with the Healthy Community Alliance, a non-profit agency headquartered in Gowanda, to disburse funds to individuals and families in the affected communities," says a note on the diocesan website. Funds will also be donated to assist two flood-damaged diocesan churches -- St. Mary's in Gowanda and St. Alban's in Silver Creek.

At St. Mary's, the back door was torn off the education building and the entire basement was flooded, said Laurie Wozniak, director of communications for the Diocese of Western New York, in a telephone interview. St. Alban's took in about 14 inches of water, which damaged the kitchen and hot water tank. Fortunately, both churches have flood insurance, Wozniak said.

"These storms struck with a vengeance, causing an unfortunate loss of life and much personal hardship in the declared areas of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Erie counties," said Paterson in an August 10 news release. "I have ordered state agencies to provide all assistance possible to protect our friends and neighbors in the affected counties."

Wozniak is participating in regular emergency response conference calls with state officials and relief coordinators. "Numbers remain fluid, but both villages [Gowanda and Silver Creek] have substantial numbers of damaged homes," she said. "They estimate that volunteer labor to initially muck out and then to rebuild may be needed for up to a year in both villages. Gowanda's reservoir was destroyed and they estimate it will take at least several months to reconstruct it." Meanwhile, old wells that were drilled in the 1930s have been revived to ensure the community has access to clean running water.

Episcopal Relief and Development has committed an initial grant for $5,000 that is being earmarked for community relief efforts.

For further information about diocesan relief efforts, contact communication@episcopalwny.org.

Updates about the diocesan disaster response are available here and donations can be made here.

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