Sunday night they held a hearty Thanksgiving dinner at First Presbyterian Church in Saint Albans. At the same time, 40 miles away in Roane County, the Helmick family in Amma, was moving into its new home. You might not think the two events are related, but they are forever linked.
“I mean it’s just unbelievable. They’re super heroes. They’re super heroes. And God has touched everyone of them,” said Jessica Helmick, a flood victim and new homeowner.
Like many families along Big Sandy Creek and the Elk River, the Helmick’s home was destroyed in the June 2016 floods.
“It means the world to them. We’re talking about people people who lost everything down to the toothpaste. They lost everything they owned,” said Joe Ross, of the Roane County Long-Term Recovery Group.
First Presbyterian in Saint Albans is part of a group known as West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps, or WV-MAW for short. It coordinated out-of-state church groups that came in to help. Just weeks before the floods, the Saint Albans Church had just completed construction of dormitories, showers, and even a rec room, to host out-of-state work groups in case West Virginia ever had a disaster. Many believe the timing was a miracle.
“Oh it’s meant quite a bit. Without their help in housing the teams that we’ve had come in, we would have no place to put them, so we wouldn’t have any workers to do the work,” said Rev. David Bush, of the West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy & Workcamps.
“And without the free labor, without the groups coming in. There’s just no way possible any of our homes could have been built,” said Joe Ross of Roane County Long Term Recovery.
The churches have hosted 28 work crews. They’ve repaired 13 homes, and built 2 brand new houses so far, including the Helmick’s. With three children to raise, they are extremely joyful.
“This Thanksgiving we’re very thankful for our couch and our house and our beds and our pillows. Everything. Everything is very different now,” said Jessica Helmick, a wife and mother of three.
But many families still need help and the call for volunteers continues.
“If there’s anybody that needs to find something to do, please have them come and see me. I’ll put them to work,” said Rev. David Bush of WV-MAW.
“Our entire lives are forever changed. It means everything,” said Jessica Helmick.
The 2016 floods occurred 17 months ago.
“The floods were a dark chapter in West Virginia’s history, but the helping hands and recovery, are one of the Mountain State’s brightest moments of hope,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.
NOTE: If you’d like to make a donation or volunteer to help flood victims, contact www.WVMAW.org