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Published: Wednesday, 9/26/2007

Volunteers honored for efforts in Hancock County flooding

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Brock Bierman, left, director of FEMA's Citizens Corps, honors Bishop Vince Jones, center, and member Steve Rackley of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, for their work.
Brock Bierman, left, director of FEMA's Citizens Corps, honors Bishop Vince Jones, center, and member Steve Rackley of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, for their work.
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FINDLAY - Among the calls Bev Phillips fielded in the days after flooding forced Findlay residents from their homes and businesses last month was one "from a bishop" who wanted to talk to the American Red Cross.

As volunteer services director for United Way of Hancock County, Ms. Phillips took the call on the agency's behalf, then met with Vince Jones, bishop of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

He not only had a sizable check to give to the Red Cross, she said, but offered 400 ready-to-go volunteers.

For five days, yellow-shirted volunteers sent by the church went to the homes and businesses of the elderly, the uninsured, and others who had no one else to help them. They tore out drywall, cleaned out basements, and hauled out trash.

Yesterday, Bishop Jones and church member Steve Rackley were among nine Hancock County residents singled out by Brock Bierman, director of FEMA's Citizen Corps, a national program aimed at training and encouraging volunteers to respond to emergencies in their communities, for their volunteer efforts in the flood aftermath.

In Findlay, Mr. Bierman said 2,400 volunteers put in more than 35,000 hours of service as the city worked to recover from the damaging high water.

"Citizens who volunteer are an extremely valuable part of civil society," he said.

Mr. Bierman was joined by Mayor Tony Iriti and Hancock County Commissioner Emily Walton, who thanked those who gave their time.

Mr. Bierman presented service medallions to Bishop Jones and Mr. Rackley along with Lu Draper, superintendent of the Cube, a recreation center that was converted into a shelter for flood victims; Dr. Walton, who coordinated efforts at the county's emergency operations center for two weeks after the flood; Christina Drake and Bill Recker, who staffed the communications links on volunteer phones and the Red Cross disaster pager; Maile Doyle, who offered to chair Hancock County's long-term recovery committee, and Helen Sanders and Dick Baker, two Red Cross volunteers who worked at the first responder shelter and helped conduct damage assessments.

"I have no doubt that if we have to go through something like this again, we will be ready because we are all willing and we are all able," Ms. Phillips said, adding what is likely a favorite quote, "Volunteers are not paid because they are worthless, but because they are priceless."

After the event in Findlay, Mr. Bierman went on to the village of Ottawa in Putnam County, which also was in the path of the Blanchard River's fury.

Individuals recognized there were Barb Odenweller, who answered phone calls at the emergency operations center; Jason Germain, one of the first volunteers to help with sandbagging; Anita Stechschulte, who first served as public information officer at the emergency operations center, then managed the volunteer reception center; Derrick Wallace, also a manger at the reception center; Mike Jerwers, president of the United Way who set up the donations management portion of the response; Mike Klear, who provided facility support at the volunteer reception center, and Rose Riepenhoff, who worked as an interviewer and job assigner at the center.

He also recognized two area football coaches, Tory Strock, of Leipsic High School, and Ken Schriener, of Ottawa-Glandorf High School, who each had their team members filling sandbags.

While much of the cleanup in both communities is done, officials are now figuring out whether to raze or repair flood-damaged government buildings.

Dr. Walton said yesterday Hancock County likely would raze four structures it owns because repairing them would cost more than 50 percent of their assessed market value.

Three adjacent buildings just south of the courthouse on South Main Street, including the commissioners' office, along with the Media One Building on West Main Cross Street which housed the board of elections, veterans affairs, the county health department, and adult probation likely will be replaced.

The city of Findlay plans to tear down the health department building on Clinton Court and the former Anchor Community Center on East Street.

In Ottawa, village council is looking at a plan to fill in the basement of the municipal building and raise the first floor by three feet to prevent future flooding problems.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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