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Flood relief continues at Canaan UMC, Ridgeville

Flood relief continues at Canaan UMC, Ridgeville

By Matt Brodie

It’s been more than three months since the congregation at Canaan United Methodist Church, Ridgeville, felt the devastating effects of the historic flooding in South Carolina. But even though the floodwaters have long since receded, the aftermath is still strongly felt. The congregation has been unable to worship at Canaan since the flooding.

“Not being able to worship here has been hard,” says Irlean Thompson, Canaan’s lay leader. “Many are going to our sister church, Sandhill UMC.”

Recovery efforts are still under way to restore the building and bring worship back.  A Disaster Response Team from North Georgia spent three days after Christmas doing their best to help get Canaan back on its feet.

The seven-member team, led by Rev. Michael Dunbar, pastor at New Covenant UMC in Georgia, worked 12-hour days for three days straight and partnered with members from Canaan to help remove the ruined tile flooring.

“We connected with the church after doing a shoeboxes-for-kids Christmas mission,” Dunbar said. “Once we found out they weren’t worshipping here, we decided we needed to come help.”

Dunbar and his team are no strangers to disaster relief. The team has worked on recovery efforts with hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, as well as work in Haiti.

“Flooding is an unknown,” Dunbar said. “The amount of damage and recovery time can vary dramatically. With all of the flooding, tornados and other disasters, there just aren’t enough teams to go around.”

Dunbar is not the only one on the team who sacrificed much to travel to South Carolina and help. Matt Warden, the youngest of the team members, will be joining the Air Force in less than two weeks and decided to spend the little time he had left helping others.

“This is real help where it’s needed,” Warden said. “We aren’t like other denominations; we don’t move in, do something and leave. We stay and help and show them how to help themselves, too.”

Another member of the team, Matt Holloway, is paralyzed, but he doesn’t let his wheelchair slow him down. He helped build more than 23 wheelchair ramps in Georgia.

“We are all part of one family,” Holloway said. “It’s great to be a part of the recovery.”

What might be the most telling of this team’s devotion to helping others is John Piorkowski, whose own home was flooded on Christmas Eve during a storm in his home conference. Despite this, he still traveled to Ridgeville to lend a hand.

“I made a good living in construction, and it’s time to give back,” Piorkowski said.

For her part, Thompson said she is tremendously grateful for all the help.

“It’s awesome. It’s a God send,” Thompson said. “That’s why we do what we do to support them and feed them ‘til they can’t eat any more.”

Canaan has received support from all over the United Methodist denomination, including teams from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Dinner was served to the congregation by Virginia Wingard UMC, Columbia, and they also received a $10,000 donation from Ashley Ridge UMC, a South Carolina United Methodist congregation that doesn’t even have a church of its own.

For more on flood relief and how to help (or get help): www.umcsc.org/screcovery.

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John Piorkowski and church member help remove damaged tile at Canaan UMC after flooding.

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Matt Holloway helps remove damaged tile at Canaan UMC after flooding.

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Team leader Rev. Michael Dunar helping with Flood recovery at Canaan UMC

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Canaan UMC church members working to remove damaged tile after historic flooding.

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Team leader Rev. Michael Dunar helping with Flood recovery at Canaan UMC

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Canaan UMC church members working to remove damaged tile after historic flooding.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.umcsc.org/home/flood-relief-continues-at-canaan-umc-ridgeville/