The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 10, 1986 · Page 24
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 24

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Salina, Kansas
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Friday, January 10, 1986
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Page 24
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The Salina Journal Friday, January 10,1986_ _PageN6_ Mennonite Disaster Service gives aid in the form of sweat and muscle By The New York Times PETERSBURG, W.Va. - They had cleaned away the debris, laid new floors, installed new sheetrock, plumbing and appliances, but there was one more thing to do. A young Mennonite man cut the top off a cedar tree on his sheep farm, and a Mennonite woman found some red balls and tinsel. Now, at last, with a Christmas tree in place, the house was ready for Nellie and David Allanson and their eight children. A few weeks earlier the couple was sleeping in the middle of a muddy living room, trying to fix the house after their belongings were swept away by the November rains that swelled rivers beyond their banks in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, claiming nearly 50 lives and damaging or destroying thousands of homes. The Allanson children, 4 to 17 years old, were with friends and relatives. But then volunteers from the Mennonite Disaster Service turned up with buckets and brooms and hammers and nails and a house for the Allansons that was not, like their own, irreparable. Two volunteers, Sim Swope and Dan Beery of Harrisonburg, Va., rattle off the names of disasters they have worked on like soldiers remembering battles: Grundy, Buffalo Creek, Nelson Creek. "If there's a need, there's help, always," says Beery. Adds his wife, Priscilla, "You just can't believe what a group of people can do." The Mennonite Disaster Service has been doing it since 1947, when members of the quiet pacifist sect reached out to tornado victims in Oklahoma. "We had always helped each other," says Nelson Hostetter, the executive coordinator of the service, and helping others was a natural outgrowth. Now the service, based in Akron, Pa., spans the United States and Canada, uniting the many branches of Mennonites, who, despite differences in theology and ways of life, answer the call for help in an emergency, from a single- family fire to this Great Flood of 1985, one of their most widespread tasks yet. There is no way to determine how many disasters the Mennonites have worked on, says Hostetter, and records on how many participate are loosely kept. The biggest year he remembers is 1972, when Hurricane Agnes, a flood in Rapid City, S.D., and a dam break in Buffalo Creek, W.Va., took their toll; 67,000 Mennonite volunteer days were recorded. The Mennonites offer themselves, counting on the Red Cross, government aid, insurance companies and interfaith organizations to provide Are You Facing "Runaway Rates" For Your Auto Insurance? WAITER FRtOERKING 1528 K. Iron CALL US FOR REASONABLE RATES ft RELIABLE INSURANCE. nun Honf Hjsmos Huanun 827-9339 MENU INTRODUCING "The French Bread Soup Bowl" $025 ONLY ^| Your choice of UJ^ chowder, stew or soups. "HOMEMADE GOODNESS" Dine In — Carry Out Mid State Mall Phone 823-8718 Balcony Level Baskin Bobbins Difference! USDA Choice Beef Sides Cut & wrapped to your specifications. „. $ _ _ _ 1 .20 $ 2.79 T-Bones Ham Hock —Weekly Special— 1 % Ibs. Round Bone Steak 3 Ibs. Chuck Roast 3 Ibs. Fryer 1 % Ibs. Pork Steak 2 Ibs. Ground Beef Ibs. Minute Steak $ 12% Ibs. for 6,99 plus tax the financial resources. The crews are primarily retired, semiretired and young people. At one time most Mennonites were farmers, but urban sprawl and a migration toward the professions has cut into the volunteer pool. And some Mennonite farmers are suffering their own economic crisis now. Still, when the call goes out, people listen. "It gives us an awareness that we're no match for God's power," says Mark Rhodes of Columbiana, Ohio, as he helps repair the plumbing in a mobile home here. "But you can't tell people this is the end of the world. You have to go from here." Lake many in Petersburg, the Al- lansons did not know what Mennonites were before the flood; Barbara Weaver and her husband are the only adherents who live here. Now she is coordinating work crews sunup to sundown. At 6:30 on a shivery Monday morning in Harrisonburg, the van for Petersburg is loading. Bernard Martin, a disaster service coordinator for the area, has the vehicle gassed and ready to go. Norman Kreider is there with his suitcase, prepared to stay another week. Emery Yoder, a carpenter, has come, too, loading the van with power tools. Paul Brunk, on his second trip, has brought two hands. Paul Glanzer, recently retired, is the driver. The van picks up six Old Order Mennonites: Paul Rohrer, Danny Shank, Betty and Mary Ethel Wenger and Martha and Edwin Eberly. The women will cook or clean; the men will do repairs. It is a two-hour drive over the mountain. The green pastureland, with postcard-perfect white barns and black cows on the Virginia side, gives way to a moonscape of fallen trees, twisted bridges, once fertile farmland washed down to bare bedrock, and barns and trailers scattered hither and yon. The Mennonites gather in this town of 2,500 people at the senior citizens center, a makeshift headquarters with radio, telephone, cots and a kitchen. There are 47, from Meyersdale and Chambersburg, Pa., Grantsville, Md., from Ohio and Virginia. The previous Thursday there were 76, on Friday 65; the average is 35 to 40. "You never know who's coming," says Kreider, who has taken a room in town.' 'If there's a day you need an electrician and one doesn't show up, you have to find something else for them to do." There are many assignments on this Monday six weeks after the floodwaters receded. Several men are dispatched to the firehouse to hang paneling; they hope to finish the community room in time for a Christmas party for the valley's children — fruit, candy, Santa and rides on firetrucks. Several go to Cline's Furniture, where Justin Thome, the owner, is staring at muddied appliances and pieces of dresser drawers. The Mennonites here are "mucking up," emptying the store of river bottom, wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load. A half-dozen women are dispatched to the kitchen to prepare lunch for the crews. Four others are assigned.to clean a trailer. Two men are sent to paint a house, several more to lay floors, two to hang kitchen cabinets, a few to hang drywalls or shave swollen doors back to size. Within an hour everyone has work. There is no job too big or too dirty. The Mennonites bring hope as well as help. One family had given up on their double-width mobile home, but Kreider thought it could be fixed. "Part of it was shock," he says, "but they couldn't see the possibilities." A group of men put jacks under the home and slid it back on its foundation. "What brought them around was the ladies coming in and scrubbing the floors and walls," Kreider • says. Such disaster victims often have their hopes raised early by promises of government aid, hopes that often deflate. "We are not critical of the government — it takes time to assess damage and evaluate resources," says Hostetter, who in 29 years of disaster work has learned his way around the 25 to 30 federal agencies that offer disaster assistance. But he adds that officials often make promises that cannot be kept. "The public hears that it's going to be a panacea," he says, but in reality government disaster programs are closely legislated, and the staff has to work within strict bounds. The Mennonites stay behind after the Red Cross and National Guard have gone. They estimate they will be here, and elsewhere in the devastated Shenandoah region, for six to eight months. "We are careful not to compete with credible contractors or take work away from other people," says Hostetter. "We only rebuild for families who can't afford it on their own." One such family was the Allansons. And that took more than a few nails. The family owed $7,000 on their old home. They could not go back and they could not afford new property. Kreider and the Red Cross found a woman who had decided to give up her home and buy a trailer. In Kreider's estimation, her house was fixable. She agreed to sell the home for the value of the lot. Kreider and his wife, Dorothy, put up the funds, for which they may or may not be reimbursed. A local lawyer offered his services free for the transfer. The Kreiders now own the parcel on which the Allansons' old house stands. For the Mennonites who worked weeks in making the new house livable, the look on Nellie Allanson's face the day she got the keys was all they needed to see. There would be Christmas after all. Couldn't have done it without you! This year we're pledged to finding more Americans U&D the biggest tax refund fTJj^iT they have coming. What canwe find for you? Sunset Plaza 254 S. Santa I Fe - Downtown 827-5817 ^ 827-4253 Also in SEARS 510 S. Santa Fe 215 W. Kfrwin 827-1311 "MEAN STATION WINTER 30%-50% o«f Fall & Winter Fashions KIDS ET CETERA 150 S. Santa Fe Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10-5 PRE-INVENTORY v S-A-L-E l / 2 OFF CHRISTMAS MERCHANDISE Placemats, Table Runners, Oil Trees, Christmas Pillows, Brass Candleabras Plus Lots More 20% to 35% OFF WOOD & UPHOLSTERY FURNITURE Discontinued & Floor Samples 20% OFF ACCESSORY MERCHANDISE Lamps, Artwork, Mirrors, Brass, Etc. Sale Ends Jan. 18 Pennsylvania House Furniture Polish Now In Stock Over 500 Swimsuits To Choose From 50%«°75%off Mid State Mall Salina interior District Representative 3126 Applewood Lane Salina. KS 67401 Telephone 1913) 8J3 3444 432 South Fifth-Salina, Ks (913) 825-7106

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