Rep. Jenkins: Crisis brings out the best in West Virginians
West Virginians are facing tremendous hardships from last week’s devastating floods, including the destruction of property and tragic loss of life. We grieve for those that we have lost, we grieve for those who have lost everything, and we grieve for the lives turned upside down.
But through the heartbreak, stories of heroism have emerged. Neighbors have offered a helping hand to strangers. People have donated the shirts off their backs and, in the case of a woman in Clendenin, the flip-flops off her feet to 89-year-old Ruby Hackney. Our churches and schools have opened their doors to people and pets in need, and those who have lost their homes are still volunteering at our command centers and food lines.
This is what makes West Virginia special. When things get tough, we get to working. We band together. We are stronger together.
In the past week, I’ve traveled throughout our flood-ravaged communities, doing what I can to support our recovery. Along the way, I’ve met brave people, selfless people, and some of the kindest people you’ll ever get the chance to know.
In the basement of the Summersville Baptist Church, thousands of family photographs lay on tables, curled and soaked with floodwater. These photos belong to one of the parishioners, who lost her home in Camden-on-Gauley, along with everything she owned. Church youth group members worked to take every picture out of its frame or album and spread them out to dry. She may have lost her home, but this spirit of community is helping preserve her memories.
In Rainelle, I met an 18-year-old who just joined up with the volunteer fire department. His job after the floodwaters receded was to help retrieve bodies and then stand guard over them at the fire department. He has seen and done things that no one should have to experience, but he kept doing the job he volunteered to do – serve his community.
I met a lady sheltered the first night in Ansted who was rescued after five hours in her one-story home that had filled with 4 feet of water. She survived the horrific event by relying on her deep faith, knowing she was in God’s hands.
I want to offer you my assistance in the coming days, weeks and months ahead. Many of you will be navigating the FEMA individual assistance application process. Small business owners will be applying with the Small Business Administration for aid or loans. With so many levels of agencies and governments, getting the assistance you need can be difficult.
If you need help with aid or just have questions, my offices are here for you. You can call my Beckley office at 304-250-6177, my Huntington office at 304-522-2202, or my Washington office at 202-225-3452.
I will also work through every means possible to get us the funding and resources we need to rebuild. That means working with federal agencies to expedite funding requests and approvals. I’ll continue to coordinate with our local, state and federal officials to best allocate our resources and solve problems. I’ll support grant requests and fight to get additional funding for our communities and programs. By working together, we can make a difference.
The road ahead will be tough. We have a very long way to go. We will always remember and honor those whom we lost, and we will offer our love and support to those rebuilding their lives. But I know we will rebuild. We will repair our schools, restock our library shelves, repave our roads, and reconstruct our bridges. We will be there for each other.
It’s what we do. It’s who we are. We’re West Virginians. And this is our home.