JEANNETTE — As Ascension Parish engages in restoration after being hit hard by torrential rains June 17, it is simultaneously reaching into the community to help other flood victims.
"Everybody that lived along the road from Jeannette to Harrison City got flooded," said Father John M. Foriska, administrator, and pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Jeannette. "People who live on top of hills got flooded. It just came in the door."
He said hundreds of homes were damaged in Jeannette and its surrounding areas.
"Some of them had 10 feet or more of water in them," Father Foriska said.
Ascension Parish was belted with four inches of water in 30 minutes, he said.
"Our back parking lot had about 10 feet of water in it," Father Foriska said. "Some of the cars were completely covered."
Four to five feet of water poured into the church and rectory, destroying furnaces, air conditioners, washers, offices and computers, he said.
"It took them days to get the water out," Father Foriska said, noting that it left two inches of mud and stench in its wake.
Clean-up, which included removing asbestos floors, is complete, and restoration is now under way, he added.
In light of the damage in the area, Father Foriska initiated a town meeting shortly after the flood. More than 100 people showed up, including flood victims, parishioners of both parishes and members of Jeannette City Council, the Salvation Army and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
The Jeannette Area Disaster Fund was created with a $10,000 donation from the St. Vincent de Paul Store in Jeannette, and a board was formed to manage the funds that will provide assistance to flood victims. The Greensburg St. Vincent de Paul Store contributed an additional $5,000, and the currently inactive Ascension St. Vincent de Paul conference added $4,000.
Leonard Lander, a board member and manager and president of the St. Vincent de Paul Store in Jeannette, said it purchased 54 dehumidifiers and loaned them to flood victims.
"Once we get the basements dry, we can start working on the hot water tanks," he said, noting money will be used to either repair or replace them.
"Right now donations are what we need to go out and help people with their hot water tanks," Lander said.
The fund is also being used to contract with plumbers and electricians, and it provided six-day hotel accommodations for a family who was being relocated by the American Red Cross.
"We’re doing the priorities first," Lander said.
He said people are also in need of refrigerators, washers and dryers, and many have been donated.
In an additional effort, Bernadette Dixon, a parishioner of Ascension Parish, is overseeing an ecumenical community outreach together with The Salvation Army.
Dinners are being held throughout July and August at Ascension Parish for those dealing with excessive flood damage. Dixon has been visiting flooded areas and passing out dinner vouchers that can be redeemed at Ascension Parish.
Donations are needed to purchase Styrofoam dinnerware, cake mixes and salad dressing.
Donations can be sent to the Jeannette Area Disaster Fund, c/o Hungingdon Bank, 401 Clay Avenue, Jeannette, PA 15644.
For assistance, call 724-527-5776.
To make monetary donations toward dinners, call 724-527-0921.