RAINELLE, W.Va. (CNS) — Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston toured the flood-ravaged town of Rainelle July 25 to see firsthand the damage caused by the severe June 23 floods.
Father Arthur Bufogle, pastor of St. John Neumann Parish in Marlinton, St. Bernard Chapel in Snowshoe and St. Mark the Evangelist Mission in Bartow, coordinated the trip in conjunction with Father Rey D. Landicho, administrator of Sacred Heart Parish in Rainelle and St. Patrick Parish in Hinton.
One of the hardest hit areas of the state, Rainelle is still in need of basic necessities as well as resources that Bishop Bransfield said will help the area recover from the mass devastation.
“It is vital for us to see,” the bishop said, “both what has occurred, and how people are beginning to put their lives back together. This way, we can make sure we get them what they truly need at this time and set them on a path to rebuilding their homes and their lives.”
The bishop’s visit began at Sacred Heart, where he met with members of the parish who lost their homes in the devastation as well as members of the local ministerial association who are heading local relief efforts. Members of other local relief centers and outreach workers also were in attendance to share their stories and coordinate their relief efforts.
Bishop Bransfield also spoke with Sacred Heart parishioner Robin Keaton and her young sons, Gabriel and Michael, whose home was destroyed by the flood. Robin recalled the day of the flood, her fear and anxiety of losing her home and not being able to provide a place to live for her children.
From there, the bishop toured several homes that suffered heavy damage and spoke with residents who are still displaced from their homes. Inside the homes, residents showed the bishop exactly how much water filled their homes as well as the extensive damage and rebuilding efforts.
Bishop Bransfield also visited a former grocery store that has become an epicenter for assistance and volunteer efforts. The distribution center offers free food, cleaning supplies, clothing and other supplies at no cost. While there, flood victims can also fill out aid applications. The site also serves as a volunteer coordination site, where volunteers are assigned to affected areas and group into work teams.
The Rev. Bob Daniels, president of the Rainelle Ministerial Association, heads the project. During the tour of the center, Bishop Bransfield could see what items were in most need as well as visit with volunteers to thank them for the work in the area.
In another tour, the bishop saw a Wellspring Outreach site run by Fred and Scarlett Kellerman, where on a daily basis food assistance as well as counseling outreach and services are made available to those in need.
Fred said the outreach center also has worked to coordinate rebuilding teams who travel to destroyed homes and begin the long process of repairing each home so families can begin to rebuild their lives. He noted the biggest need currently are for more volunteers, because there more work to be done and not enough people to do it. The center also is in dire need of donations of money and building materials.
Father Bufogle and some members of his parish, mission and chapel will be among the crews traveling to Rainelle to help the rebuilding efforts. The priest said many of his parishioners have suffered flood damage in the past and know exactly how to help.
“Our people have been through this, and they want to help,” he told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. “Our crews will do clean out and construction work as we are needed. We have also raised $3,000 to $5,000 of donations to help where it is needed. There is an enormous amount that has to be done.”
Bishop is assistant editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.