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Published: Tuesday, 10/3/2006

Toledo's flood victims not forgotten

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Carol Bird, left, and Sue Alex speak with Karl Oetzel, 69, a retired Jeep worker, whose Kellogg Road home was flooded on June 21. The two women helped Mr. Oetzel fill out forms. Carol Bird, left, and Sue Alex speak with Karl Oetzel, 69, a retired Jeep worker, whose Kellogg Road home was flooded on June 21. The two women helped Mr. Oetzel fill out forms.
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Cloa Vangilder said she wasn't sure whether to let two strangers into her home on Marriat Road yesterday after they asked if she needed help cleaning up from the flooding in June.

By the end of the visit, Ms. Vangilder was moved to tears of joy and wound up telling Sue Alex and Carol Bird her life story.

Three months after heavy rain affected about 4,800 homes and caused widespread flooding in the Toledo area, some families are still struggling to recover.

Even after grants from FEMA, the American Red Cross, and other agencies, up to 300 people continue to lack basic services, said Ms. Alex, case manager for the West Erie Congregation and Agency Relief Effort.

She and Ms. Bird, a senior at the University of Toledo who assisted Ms. Alex as an intern, dropped by Ms. Vangilder's home and several others yesterday to offer help.

They were working from a list given to them by several social service agencies that provided assistance to flood victims.

Some, like Ms. Vangilder, received a bucket with cleaning supplies, but were happy to see that someone still cared about the flooding victims.

"It's really a good thing that you came by," Ms. Vangilder, 78, said as she pulled out pictures she took of her flooded backyard after the storms.

Others, like Karl Oetzel, 69, of the 5200 block of Kellogg Road near Reynolds Road, needed a little more help.

His insurance company paid him roughly $30,000 for repairs made to his home after it was soaked with six inches of rain water, but more work needs to be done.

"I had a pump, but the water was coming in as fast as I was pumping it out," Mr. Oetzel told Ms. Alex and Ms. Bird. "After that, I just grabbed the dog, jumped in the car, and left. There wasn't much I could do. I still had to pay about $1,000 out of my pocket."

Mr. Oetzel said he still needs drains near the front and backdoor entrances to clear water that will likely collect if his neighborhood is hit by another heavy rain.

Ms. Alex helped him fill out assessment forms. She said WECARE will try to assist Mr. Oetzel with volunteer help and money to complete repairs to his home.

"Everybody's forgotten about [the flood victims]," Ms. Alex said. "If they don't hear about it, they think everything is fine."

WECARE was formed to assist in long-term recovery efforts from the flooding. Ms. Alex said her list of about 100 homes is expected to grow to as many as 300 once she receives a list from FEMA of homes that still need help.

WECARE is made up of many faith-based organizations, including the Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Services, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, and Toledo Area Ministries.

Other groups include the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, and the United Way of Greater Toledo.

Along Delmonte Drive, near Dorr Street in southwest Toledo, several homes were vacant, and flood-damaged furniture and clothes and toys in plastic bags still dotted the yards of some homes.

Ms. Alex said some families simply moved away because they couldn't get help.

She said her organization will be trying to find as many of those families as possible to offer aid.

She said WECARE still needs monetary donations and volunteers to assist in cleaning up homes. She said mold growing inside homes is the main problem.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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