West Pittston, Trinity: Social Ministries

[From John Major, rector]

Trinity Episcopal Church of West Pittston strives to seek and embrace ministries that allow us to live out our mission statement, “Working and praying together to live and build holy community.”

Many of our efforts fall under the umbrella of our “Good Neighbor Ministries,” which include long-standing and ongoing projects aimed at filling unmet needs as we identify them in our community.  These include a parishioner-supported food pantry that provides emergency assistance to dozens of families each year, and a Feed a Friend program that provides homemade frozen meals to homebound neighbors and to those coping with illness or family emergency.  This program is extended to provide rides and other assistance to these neighbors when needed.  Trinity West Pittston also operates a prayer network that is publicized in the weekly paper and open to the public, where people can submit prayer requests by phone or mail and members of the congregation will pray for them.

For the past four years, Trinity has also offered a ministry called MUSICare to young families in the area.  Through the internationally known Music Together program, we bring young families together for a “mommy & me” type class that helps children from birth through age five learn to appreciate and enjoy music, helps parents learn how to incorporate music into their everyday family activities, and provides an opportunity for these young parents to get together for conversation and fellowship.  Through free Music Together demonstrations held in venues such as bookstores, libraries, schools and mothers’ groups, Trinity reaches out to the community at large and offers this fun, enriching experience to families throughout the region.  This ministry recently spawned another ministry, a toy swap, which allows young families a place to share slightly used toys and provides a source of gently used and sometimes new toys that Trinity can share with others in need in the community.

Trinity also participates in shared and regional ministry, including providing toiletries and other items for use by the homeless program at Church of the Good Shepherd in Scranton and regular participation in a yearly evangelism program called Project Presence, that brings all the Luzerne County Episcopal churches together to sponsor a booth at the county fair, where balloons, goodies and literature are handed out to create a positive experience with our church for fairgoers.  In the interest of sustaining the Episcopal presence in our community, Trinity has also entered into agreements with other regional parishes over the last four years in which our rector also served as either a rector or priest in charge at these other parishes, strengthening both parishes and enabling both to have pastoral leadership that guides them to the Gospel ministry of service.

In addition to these ongoing ministries, in the aftermath of a flood in September 2011 that affected more than one third of West Pittston and large sections of nearby towns, Trinity initiated a new ministry called FLOODCare.  This ministry to our flooded neighbors has included hands-on assistance, distribution of gift cards, flood relief items and household goods, opportunities for pastoral care, and ongoing reminders that Trinity West Pittston is ready and available to assist in their recovery for as long as it takes.  We continue to provide help and goods to a number of families who are still not back in their home.
Trinity’s FLOODCare ministry inspired a new regional ministry in disaster preparedness and response.  Housed in a closed Episcopal Church in the geographic center of flood-prone Luzerne County and initially funded by a combination of diocesan funds and grants as well as grants from Episcopal Relief & Development, Episcopal Appalachian Ministries, St. George’s Regional Disaster Recovery & Outreach Center will provide a location to store and distribute disaster supplies, provide shelter for those affected by disasters and those who come to help them, and serve as a site to coordinate disaster preparedness and training throughout the region.  It will also include a feeding program that will provide a needed service in an underserved community afflicted with nearly twice the state level of poverty.  Trinity’s leadership and parishioners continue to support this ministry as part of our own community outreach, mission and ministry.
The Rev. John Major
Trinity Episcopal Church of West Pittston
Saint Clement and Saint Peter Church of Wilkes-Barre
The Children’s MUSICare Project featuring Music Together
Trinity Episcopal Church of West Pittston
Diocese of Bethlehem Episcopal Relief and Development Representative
Director of Saint George’s Regional Disaster Recovery and Outreach Center , Nanticoke, Luzerne County, PA
Member of Diocesan Council, Diocese of Bethlehem

Important day in West Pittston

Today Fr. John Major and Janine Ungvarsky hosted a combined clergy meeting to review the progress in ministry to flood victims along the Susquehanna, particularly in the West Pittston area. Clergy from Tunkhannock to Honesdale and points north and south of that Rt 6 line were present.

There were several joy-producing moments even in the recollection of devastation. In the first place, Trinity and its friends have been persevering long-term servants of their neighbors, and have found that to be transformative of their life. Secondly, the good people at Episcopal Relief and Development have been nothing but helpful in their conversations. Finally, there was a review of the amount of gifts that have flowed in from you to help in this community rebuilding effort, which will take 3 to 5 years to complete.

As you know, we have a team working to help each place in the diocese be prepared for unexpected large-scale tragedy.

One of the things I have learned is that there is a national registry of volunteers that we can all access to put our skills and interests on tap for future needs. More about this will come to you.

I left the event heartened by the clergy turnout, the persistence of Trinity's priest and people, and the knowledge that ERD knows that we are here and are trying. I want to publicly thank all of them.


Diocesan Life March/April 2012

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Trinity West Pittston flips out over pancakes

By Janine Ungvarsky

On Shrove Tuesday, Trinity West Pittston flipped out, serving 600 pancakes in just over three hours at our 8th Annual Pancake, Egg and Sausage Supper.  The dining hall was filled with a steady stream of neighbors, friends and parishioners all enjoying the pancake flipping skills of Father John Major, who manned the griddle for the evening.  The event was a great success, thanks to the nearly two dozen Trinity parishioners and friends of the parish who served food, kept coffee pots and syrup pitchers filled and made sure the guests all left happy and full.
A number of the guests at the pancake dinner were local residents affected by the September flooding, who were provided complimentary tickets courtesy of donations.
The event got an honorable mention in an article about Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday that ran in the Times Leader the following day.

Trinity West Pittston distributes Christmas trees to flood victims

ChurchPost.com » FLOODCare update: Christmas Tree Distribution

Dear Bakery Friends,

On Saturday evening, Trinity West Pittston's grounds turned into a Christmas tree lot as we invited our neighbors affected by the September flooding to choose a Christmas tree or wreath to brighten their holiday. 

About 60 families came by to choose from an assortment of trees and wreaths delivered fresh that day from a nearby tree lot.  With the sounds of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" filling the air and ample supplies of hot chocolate and cookies baked by parishioners from Trinity and the Episcopal Church Women's group from Prince of Peace in Dallas, we tried to make our guests feel welcome as they chose a tree.

For some, getting a tree freed up money to use on other things.  For others, it replaced an artificial tree that was lost to the flooding.  Many of those who stopped by told tales of losing not only their trees but all their Christmas decorations which were stored in basements or garages that took on water during the flood. 

One woman shared how she thought her tree and ornaments were okay because they were stored on high shelves in the garage and well above the flood water, but when she went out to get her decorations she discovered that the flood water had toppled the plastic storage tubs containing the decorations from the shelves into the water.  Someone who probably thought they were being helpful hosed off the boxes and put them back on the shelves but didn't open them or clean what was inside, and all her decorations were ruined.  "I was so upset.  We had so many nice things and they were all caked with mud and mold," she said.  This woman was able to choose from some Christmas ornaments and lights donated for those affected by the flood and took home not only a tree but some things to decorate it with.  "It might be a Charlie Brown tree without enough ornaments, " she said, "but it will still feel like Christmas."

We were initially surprised by how many residents chose wreaths instead of trees, and saddened to learn that the reason was that many of them were living in circumstances that just don't leave room for a Christmas tree.  Some are living in cramped trailers, and many are still living in one room in a hotel or with relatives or friends.  One woman said she couldn't take a tree because her house doesn't have any floors -- the entire first level had to be stripped to the support beams to eradicate mold.  "I don't have any place to stand a tree, but I can still remember Christmas when I look at my front door," this woman said.

Our neighbors also had the opportunity to browse a selection of new and gently used clothing and salon beauty products provided by Covers of Love, a local non-profit that heard about our efforts and asked to join us, as well as some of the clothing and bedding donated by St. John's Hamlin during our furniture distribution.  We also had more than 80 cases of water and a dozen cases of bleach sent to us by Churches of Christ Disaster Relief and a selection of Christmas ornaments, toys and new household items donated by Trinity parishioners, as well as some of the gift cards collected at the Diocesan Convention and sent to us afterwards by other churches.  Our neighbors were pleasantly surprised and very grateful to receive so much help when they thought they were only getting a tree.

Over and over, we were thanked for still being there when others have moved on.  But the thanks didn't warm our hearts as much as knowing that about sixty families will have a merrier Christmas right when they most need to take a moment to step away from stress and loss and feel the spirit of Christmas around them.  "If you weren't giving these away, I wouldn't have stopped working on the house tonight to run out for a tree.  I don't know if I would have ever stopped," one man accompanied by two grade school aged children told us.  "We're going to decorate this and have cookies and milk under the tree before bed.  Tonight, we can just forget about the flood and think about Christmas."

Our thanks to Ciampi's Greenhouses for assisting us with a good price on the trees and for donating the wreaths; to Father Earl Trygar, his wife Helen and the parishioners of St. Mark's Moscow for the generous cash contributions towards the purchase of trees; to the ECW at Prince of Peace for the beautiful trays of homemade cookies, as well as the candy canes and small gifts we were able to hand out to the children who visited; to the Churches of Christ for the water and bleach; and to all of you who contributed gift cards that we were able to share.  Our neighbors are grateful for the help you are all providing, and we are grateful for your support as we continue to try to ease their burdens.  Our parish Community Resiliency Team will meet soon to discuss the projects we've just completed, assess the needs we've learned about and plan new ways to help.  We'll keep you posted -- please keep our neighbors and our efforts in your prayers.

Janine Ungvarsky
FLOODCare Coordinator
Trinity West Pittston

P.S.  We were also fortunate enough to have a video journalist from local television stations FOX56 and WBRE stop by during the evening to film a report that ran on the 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts. The text of that report can be found below.  The attitude expressed by Ms. Edwards is very typical of what we hear from our neighbors: they are doing without so much but are very grateful for what they do have and for any help they receive.


Road To Recovery: Flood 2011

Church Spreads Christmas Joy in the Flood Zone

Reported by: Mark Hiller
West Pittston, Luzerne County -- The first weekend of December is a popular time for people to get a fresh Christmas tree. That's what some flood victims in West Pittston did -- but if you asked them before the September flood, they never would have guessed they'd get that tree from a church. Trinity Episcopal Church of West Pittston gave away free trees and wreaths as well as new toys and new and lightly-used clothing. It's a welcome gesture for a community hit so hard.

"This is wonderful. This is really great to at least have a wreath, to be able to have some decorations out," said Bonnie Edwards. Her home on Lacoe Street was hit hard by flooding but her family has managed to return. "We're at least living in the upstairs of our house. We're basics, no kitchen, plumbing or anything but we're home."

Others aren't so fortunate. "I don't even have floors and I don't mean flooring. I mean floors. So, it's hard," said Linda Armstrong who also lives on Lacoe Street. It's a hardship lessened at least a little by the church and other caring groups and individuals. "It makes me grateful to live in our community where we have neighbors that are reaching out and helping each other," said Ms. Armstrong.

Trinity Episcopal Church had vouchers ready for flood victims to still get free trees and wreaths in case today's giveaway supply ran out. 



Santa visits Music Together at Trinity, West Pittston

ChurchPost.com » Santa visits Music Together at Trinity West Pittston

Dear Bakery Friends,

Trinity West Pittston had a special visitor last night when Santa Claus heard a Music Together class in progress and dropped in to visit with the children and their families.  Music Together is an internationally known music and movement program for children from birth to age five and the grownups that love them, which Trinity brought to the area three years ago as part of our MUSICare ministry to young families. 

Fifteen children and their parents and grandparents were taking part in Trinity's annual free Christmas demonstration of the Music Together program, including a number of families who were new to the Music Together experience.  Santa Claus heard the loud and joyful sound of the children experimenting with the rhythm instruments and stopped by to sing along.  Santa joined the kids and their families in a rousing rendition of "Jingle Bells," then spent time talking to the children and gave each a small gift.  I was able to get this photo of Santa and some of the children and their parents and grandparents before Santa had to hurry off...

The Christmas Santa Sing-a-Long is one of two free Music Together events held at Trinity each year-- the other is an end-of-summer party. In addition, we participate in numerous free demonstrations in the community at libraries, bookstores and schools during the year. Three semesters of classes, 10 weeks per semester, are held each year, with classes offered mornings, afternoons and early evenings.   If you or someone you know lives in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and is interested in more information about Music Together classes, please email me at janineungvarsky@msn.com or visit musictogether.com.  The next class semester starts January 10.



Janine Ungvarsky
Assistant Administrator
MUSICare featuring Music Together
Trinity West Pittston


Little Jackson meets Santa for the very first time...

Diocesan Life for December 2011/January 2012

Open publication - Free publishing - More floods

You can download a .pdf of the file here: Download DECEMBER2011_DiocesanLife_SMALL

Trinity West Pittston FLOODCare update: Furniture distribution

ChurchPost.com » FLOODCare Update: Furniture Distribution

Dear Bakery Friends,

 What an amazing and humbling experience the parishioners of Trinity West Pittston had this weekend as we distributed donated furniture, clothing, bedding and other items to our neighbors affected by the September flooding.  It was amazing because the items disappeared faster than we could ever have imagined, and it was humbling because we saw not only how fortunate we are compared to people who live just a few streets away from Trinity but how grateful they were for even something as simple as a used lamp.

 In just the first two hours after distribution started on Friday, more than 40 households came through and made their selections from the desk-dresser units, chairs, tables and lamps that were donated by Genetti’s Hotel & Convention Center.  The stories they told us as we helped them make their selections really drove home how much our neighbors have lost and how great the need still is in our area. 

 One woman spoke of how happy she was to finally have the electricity restored to her home after more than two months, only to discover as darkness fell that first evening that she didn’t have a working lamp.  She couldn’t decide between a floor lamp and a table lamp and literally clapped her hands with joy when she was told she could have one of each—complete with shades and light bulbs and ready to light up her home.

 And there was the family that got excited when they saw the tables we had available.  These were just small tables, no more than three feet square.  This family was so happy because the apartment they are renting while their home is repaired has a tiny kitchen, and this table was the perfect size.  They left talking about how they would finally have a table to gather around for their Thanksgiving dinner.

 By mid-afternoon on the first day of what we thought would be a three-day distribution, our entire inventory of more than 200 pieces of furniture was down to a handful of lamps and one desk-dresser, and people were still coming.  But even when we had to tell them we didn’t have the furniture they came for, our neighbors told us over and over that they were thankful that we thought of them and organized the distribution, and how glad they were that some others had gotten some of the things they needed. 

 Around 2:30 on Friday, our efforts were given a boost when Fran and Bobbie from St. John’s in Hamlin arrived with a small recreational vehicle full of clothing and bedding, along with a monetary donation.   Now we had a different kind of help to offer, and we heard more stories as people came through and made their selections from the many items so generously donated by the St. John’s community. 

 One woman wearing a short sleeved shirt and hooded sweatshirt on a chilly day told us that all her winter clothes were stored in the basement and lost in the flood.  She happily carried out a trash bag bulging with warm sweaters and sweatshirts, and left wearing a new-to-her winter coat.  And an elderly gentleman who told us he has been sleeping on the second floor of his flooded home with no power or heat left with an armload of blankets and a comforter to keep him warm at night.

 Even though the furniture was gone on Friday, we kept the site staffed and offered the items donated by St. John’s.  We continued handing out the gift cards many of you so graciously provided, and we really focused on ministry, spending a lot of time in conversation with those who stopped by.  We listened to their stories of the things they lost and the challenges they are facing, we gave them an opportunity to express their frustrations and fears and shed a few tears and we offered words of encouragement and prayer.  We also started a list of names and contact information and the things that are still needed, and we’ll use that to continue doing something we’ve been doing since before the waters receded: matching people who have things to donate with others in need.

 We had one more source of help on Sunday as Kathy Coslett and her family brought a mobile clothing closet to our site with new and gently used clothing, freshly dry-cleaned comforters and blankets and salon beauty products.  The Cosletts live outside the flood area but heard about our efforts and wanted to help.

 When all was said and done, we had distributed about 200 pieces of furniture to 66 households, along with gift cards and many items of clothing and household goods.  We didn’t count people as they came through the door, but we have more than 125 names of people who have either received help or are on a waiting list for future help.  We’ve been able to identify the areas of greatest need to address in future events.

 And there will be future events.  We started the weekend unsure of the need and concerned we might have to store furniture at the end of the weekend.  We ended the project with the sobering realization that the need is far greater than we thought, but also with the knowledge that even the smallest things we do for our brothers and sisters mean a great deal. 

 Our next project will be one of those “small things.”  Knowing that many of our neighbors lost their Christmas trees and decorations in the flood, and that in many cases, replacing these will have to take a back seat to other more pressing needs, we will give away fresh Christmas trees and wreathes on December 3.  While Christmas can certainly be celebrated without these decorations and a tree is a small thing in comparison to the many needs of those who were flooded, it is our hope that these symbols of the season will help our neighbors enter into the joy of Christmas despite their troubles, and serve as another reminder that we care about them and are here for them.

 On behalf of all of us at Trinity, I’d like to thank everyone who helped us this weekend, especially: Sue Ellen Andreas from Jim Thorpe, who arrived in the midst of the largest crowds on Friday morning and dove right in to help; St. John’s Hamlin for their timely delivery of clothing and bedding, and all who have provided gift cards.  This weekend showed us the immensity of the task still before us, and we are grateful to have your support as we continue to minister to our neighbors.


 Janine Ungvarsky
FLOODCare Coordinator
Trinity West Pittston


Trinity West Pittston FLOODCare update

ChurchPost.com » FLOODCare Update: Moving Day

Dear Bakery Friends,

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Trinity West Pittston will distribute donated furniture to our neighbors affected by the early September flooding.  We haven't handed out one piece of furniture yet, but already this project has reached far beyond our parish.

When we found out the furniture needed to be moved from Wilkes-Barre to West Pittston during the day in the middle of the week, we knew we needed help beyond what we could muster at Trinity.  When moving day arrived on Wednesday, November 16, we had all the help we needed in the form of volunteers not only from our parish but from throughout the community

Tim Sheffler is a member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Scranton, and his church received our appeal for help from a Bakery notice forwarded by Church of the Epiphany in Clarks Summit.  When Tim heard about our project, he arranged for vacation time from his job and brought his dad, George, to help for the day.  They even brought a trailer to assist with the move.  Our thanks to Tim and George, and also to Trinity Lutheran and Church of the Epiphany for passing along the word.

Thanks also go to two local business owners, Chris Schwartz and Rick Schmid, who heard about the project through Father John and Sandy Major and took time off from their businesses to help.  Chris took on the responsibility of driving one of the trucks and Rick, who owns a gym, helped with unloading and also recruited some members of his gym to help with the distribution over the weekend.

And the biggest boost of the day came from student athletes from Misericordia University.  It turns out that college students, who pile all their belongings into a vehicle four times a year for the trips back and forth to college, are masters at quick and efficient loading.   The first student group of four young men and one young woman jumped into the task and with the assistance of the rest of the volunteers, had three 16-foot rental trucks crammed full of 42 desk/dressers, and at least 30 each chairs, small tables and lamps in less than an hour and a half. 

The second group of six football players arrived at 11:30 and were so helpful and quick that by the time lunch arrived just after noon, all three trucks were unloaded and the distribution site was set up and ready to go.  The football players even climbed ladders to hang welcome banners from the ceiling.

My project co-coordinator, Lisa Nardone, and I are so grateful to all these volunteers and the members of Trinity who came to help that day, as well as to the maintenance staff at Genetti's who assisted with moving the furniture to the main floor for loading.  We started at about 8:30 in the morning and all three trucks were returned to the rental office by 2:30 that afternoon.   Professional movers who were consulted about this project said it would take up to 18 hours and cost more than $2,500 to hire someone to do what these volunteers did in under six hours at just a fraction of that cost for truck rental and food for the volunteers, so you can understand how thrilled we were and what a blessing it was to have this move completed so quickly, easily and inexpensively.

Our distribution site in the former CVS store at the corner of Boston and Wyoming Avenues in West Pittston will be open on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  We welcome any and all volunteers to come and join us that day in offering assistance, hospitality and support to our neighbors who are still struggling to recover from the flood.  If you have questions or need directions, please email me at janineungvarsky@msn.com .  And whether you are able to come this weekend or not, please join in praying that our efforts to help will ease the burden and warm the hearts of our brothers and sisters who were affected by the flood.


Janine Ungvarsky
Trinity West Pittston
FLOODCare Coordinator

West Pittston Flood update from Trinity

[From Fr. John Major, Rector of Trinity, West Pittston]

DSC_1543Dear Bakery Friends,

As our neighbors work to recover from the devastating September floods, Trinity West Pittston has continued to look for ways to help meet their most immediate material needs and to remind them that they are not alone in their struggles.

Projects are underway to distribute the gift cards that were donated at the recent Diocesan Convention and that are continuing to come in from collections held in individual parishes throughout the diocese. Our sincere thanks to those who have already contributed cards for our neighbors, and to those who are continuing to collect cards and forward them to us for distribution. These cards are much needed and appreciated, and will go a long way towards easing the financial burden our neighbors face as a result of the flood.

We are also planning weekend-long distribution of the donated furniture procured by Father Daniel Gunn to be held November 18, 19 & 20. Help will be recruited from schools and community organizations to assist with moving the furniture from the donor site in Wilkes-Barre to West Pittston and to help at the distribution, and we'd love to have some of our fellow Episcopal churches join in to show the community the Episcopal Church as a whole is here for them. Please email janineungvarsky@msn.com if you or your church is interested in helping.

In addition to these projects to help meet the material needs of those affected by the flooding, Trinity's Disaster Response Team also wanted to brighten spirits, encourage hope and let our neighbors know we are praying for them. On Saturday, October 23, a group of our Sunday School students along with their parents and other parishioners visited almost 100 homes in some of the most devastated neighborhoods to talk with the residents and give them a pumpkin or potted mum to bring them a little bit of fall color and cheer.

Those who took part will not soon forget the reactions of those they spoke to that day, from the kids excited to have a pumpkin to carve even though their home doesn't have inside walls to the man who asked us to give the mum to his pregnant wife to cheer her up as they faced the seventh of many Saturdays working to restore their flooded home.

We spoke to a woman who said she had been thinking about getting our her fall door wreath but couldn't quite muster up the mood...and whose home later displayed not only the wreath but a little scarecrow and one of our hand-delivered mums as well. And then there was the father who got choked up as he told us his little girl had been asking him for days to get her a pumpkin, but his long hours of work first at his job and then on their home kept him from fulfilling her request. "She's gonna be so happy tonight," he said, and even the kids in Trinity's group could see how happy that made him. Our Sunday School parents report that days later, the kids are still talking about the people they visited and the things they saw and heard.

This was a very low-cost project: the pumpkins were purchased at a discount and the mums were graciously donated by a local grower. But these small tokens made a big impact on our neighbors, and, because each mum and pumpkin carried a tag that explained the project and told our neighbors that we are all praying for them, they served as a reminder that there is a source of hope in even the darkest days.

Trinity West Pittston plans other projects like this to help our neighbors remember that they are not alone and that they will get through this. It is our hope that through little reminders of our caring and by sharing the gift cards so generously provided by our sisters and brothers throughout the diocese as well as other donated items like the furniture, our neighbors will be strengthened and sustained through this difficult time.

Thank you for your continued support of our neighbors, and please keep them and our efforts to help them in your prayers.

Father John Major and the parishioners of Trinity West Pittston

Shown above are some members of Trinity West Pittston's Sunday School classes who recently took part in an outreach project for victims of the September flooding.

West Pittston Flood update

Bishop Paul has designated the Diocesan Convention offering to go toward flood relief. Christ Church, Towanda sustained six to eight feet of flooding in their parish basement and Trinity, West Pittston was spared by one block from being overwhelmed with water. Sayre and Athens were also hard hit from the flooding. As we know more, we will be updating you. Many churches are already helping and as we gather information on the best way to proceed with donations, we will let you know what is needed and where to take it. Right now, funds are the best method of helping so that gift cards can be purchased for food and household goods. You can send funds payable to The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, memo line: FLOOD RELIEF, 333 Wyandotte St., Bethlehem, PA 18015

By Janine Ungvarsky, pictures by John Major

“Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have put our trust in you.” [Psalm 33]
“Blessed be the Lord for evermore! Amen, I say Amen.” [Psalm 89]
WestPittstonFlood1 On September 7 and 8, 2011, a number of communities along the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County were hit with the worst flooding these areas have ever seen. While the levee system thankfully protected larger cities like Wilkes-Barre and Kingston, West Pittston and other nearby small towns including Duryea, Exeter Township and Plains suffered significant damage.  As of the most recent figures available from the Emergency Management Agency, well over 2000 homes and more than 100 businesses throughout Luzerne County were damaged.
In West Pittston alone, 880 of the 2,381 residential structures received damage, including 230 that had flooding on the first floor and about 20 where water reached the second floor.  Fifty buildings had structural damage and a number of those have been or will be demolished as a result of the flood.  Many were not considered to be in the flood zone and were not insured for the damage.
Over 1,500 of the homes in West Pittston are more than 70 years old, and many of these larger, older residences have been subdivided into apartments, resulting in multiple families being left homeless by flood damage to one building.  In many cases, these tenants did not have insurance on their belongings.  And because more than two dozen businesses were also flooded, some residents lost not only their homes but their income as well.  Restaurants, gas stations and medical offices were all flooded, some severely, and it will take many of them months to rebuild.
As West Pittston started to dig out, those who would often be on the scene to help were also struggling.  The local National Guard armory and the Salvation Army were in the worst hit areas, and while both did respond to the disaster, their efforts were hampered by their own devastation.   Several churches were flooded, the local library suffered extensive damage, and the elementary school suffered damage to a number of lower level classrooms and the gymnasium.  Trinity Episcopal Church and rectory were spared, but many of its neighbors and a number of parishioners were directly affected by the flooding.
Similar situations exist in neighboring towns, including the Jenkins Township section of Plains and an area of Exeter Township known as Harding, where a combined total of about 150 structures were damaged, many of them in trailer parks and lower income areas; and Duryea, where 340 homes and businesses as well as the Roman Catholic elementary school were affected by up to seven feet of water on the first floor.  Duryea Borough officials estimated property owners in the small town of about 4,600 residents have sustained more than $7 million in damage.
WestPittstonFlood2 As a result of hauling away mud soaked debris ranging from furniture and clothing to ruined carpets and drywall, Duryea officials expect the town’s landfill bill to soar from the usual monthly fee of $1,500 to more than $70,000, and this in a town where the entire 2011 budget is $1,202,603.  Since all of these hard-hit areas are small towns with very limited resources, each community faces similar situations, and they are relying heavily on outside agencies and organizations for assistance.
This assistance has been forthcoming in the form of some government emergency relief funding as well as practical help with everyday needs such as meals, flood clean up kits, medical care and clothing provided by local churches and civic organizations.  Some businesses are also stepping up to help with discounts on furniture and other necessities; a few are even making free items available to those who suffered flood damage and loss.  All of this helps with the immediate needs of those affected by the September flooding, but so much more remains to be done.
Most of those whose homes were flooded remain displaced, waiting for contractors to become available or unable to afford the work needed to fix their homes.  Even as they try to prepare to rebuild their lives, they find themselves battling mold and other potentially toxic contaminants.  Some renters are struggling to come up with deposits for new apartments and, in some cases, the funds to refurnish an apartment when they find one.  Others whose homes were not flooded are housing neighbors or family members, straining financial resources to feed and support those affected by the flood.  The aftermath of this flood will continue to impact the people of these small towns for a very long time, far longer than most outside agencies and organizations will remain on the scene.  In an area already facing an unemployment rate that has inched back up to 10 percent—higher than both the state and national rates -- recovery could take months, if not years.
WestPittstonFlood3 Trinity West Pittston and the other Episcopal Churches of Luzerne County have pledged to be there as long as our neighbors need us.  Even before the river receded, parishioners in the Luzerne County churches were helping each other and our neighbors meet urgent needs for housing, food and volunteer labor.  We are currently in the process of speaking to flood victims to determine what needs aren’t being met by others or what needs may arise in the future, and will then work together within and between congregations to meet those needs.  For example, some services under consideration include counseling for those affected and childcare to allow parents uninterrupted time to work on their homes.  And since the increased need of residents displaced and/or unemployed because of the flood has left local food pantries with bare shelves, the area’s Episcopal Churches are stepping up efforts to restock those shelves.
Some cooperative flood recovery projects between congregations are already underway as well.  For example, through the efforts of The Rev. Daniel Gunn, Rector at St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral in Wilkes-Barre, a local hotel undergoing renovations has donated rooms full of furniture, and a team organized by The Rev. John Major, Rector at Trinity West Pittston, will seek donations of other household goods like bedding, towels, dishes, etc., and coordinate a distribution to local flood victims.  However, even using donated items and volunteer labor, efforts like this will require funds for warehouse space and trucks to transport and store the items.  Local congregations are already contributing time, talent and treasure to flood recovery efforts and seek help to let our neighbors know the Episcopal Church is there for them.

Diocesan Life for October 2011

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Diocesan Life for September 2011

Download the September issue of Diocesan Life as a .pdf
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