In June 2018, some of the suburbs south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were hit by massive flash flooding. My hometown of Bethel Park was hit very badly. More than 400 homes were damaged—some were condemned, but many others had thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
I created the Citizens of Bethel Park Facebook page a few years ago as a place for neighbors to connect. We had about 3,000 group members before the flood hit. Since the flood, we’ve had over 1,000 new members join as a way for community members to look for help and to offer help.
During the storm, many residents were frantically posting that their homes were filling up as the water rose rapidly. When a surge hit, customers eating in a local restaurant had to suddenly jump onto the tables and watch as their cars started to float away in the parking lot. Creeks turned into rivers and washed cars away, then receded to creeks again. One boy was swept into a storm drain and survived. Another local woman, from the next town over, was not as lucky.
I, along with the other group administrators, started organizing a local relief effort by pairing up folks in need with those who said they wanted to help. We quickly became organized using Google Suite, Slack, Whatsapp and New Dream's SoKind Registry. We were especially worried about the high number of elderly residents in the community. The initial cleanup and mold abatement is still not done, and we're working with the Black Hawk Family Relief Fund to fundraise and organize where to direct donations.
I've found SoKind to be the perfect solution to help families in need post the items they needed. The notifications come to me, and I then help match families up with the donations. It's working beautifully. Although I’ve since moved away from the area, I spent three weeks there this summer to meet with as many people as possible to make sure they received the donations provided from others in the community.
The entire neighbor-to-neighbor relief effort for the town was run by four women: myself, Sydney Litzenburger, Becky Luzier, and Courtney Smith. Together, we’ve moved mountains. We organized volunteers, donations, and fundraising for the entire town, and our effort has helped so many people whose homes were damaged. These women inspire me—and they saved a town.
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