CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Friday night will mark six months since historic flood waters ripped through parts of central and southeastern West Virginia, washing away homes and claiming nearly two dozen lives.
Not one West Virginian can say they don’t remember that devastating day on June 23, 2016, including U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
“West Virginia has had a really rough time,” she said. With the new year approaching, Capito said, “It should be our time. It’s time for us to pull together.”
Capito was in Charleston the Friday before Christmas to serve lunch at Mountain Mission’s Soup Kitchen.
“Just in the short period of time I’ve been here I’ve already run into several people that I’ve met before — one gentleman that I met during the flood and he’s still on hard times, so I think it’s really important for me to be here to listen and to try to spread a little good cheer,” she said.
In the days after the flood, Mountain Mission formed its HOPE Project, which stands for Helping Our People along the Elk River. Northern Kanawha County was one of the hardest hit areas, particularly in the Clendenin-Elkview area.
Since the flood, volunteers with the project have supplied over $500,000 in building materials to families who lost their homes, according to Mountain Mission Executive Director John Roberts.
“That’s about 150 families that we’ve helped,” Roberts said. On Friday, they expected to feed a couple hundred people.
Roberts said he was pleased to welcome Capito to their Soup Kitchen, especially during this time of great need.
“Senator Capito is great. We love her. She is a voice for us in Washington. She has not forgotten the little guy. She’s up there fighting for us,” he said.
The main goal for 2017 is to get people back into their homes, Roberts said.
“If is takes it takes every dollar we have right now to make sure that these families get back to their homes, we want to do that,” he said. “No body deserves to have their home flooded.”
Roberts said they’ve been able to accomplish a lot in the past six months, but much more needs to be done.
“We’ve already been supplying building material in the form of dry wall and insulation, but now we need to look at kitchens, bathrooms, flooring, paint and those kinds of things,” he said.
Earlier this week, West Virginia received $87 million in additional federal flood relief funding. In total, the state has received just more than $100 million since the disaster.
“That will go a long way to filling the need, but we probably still have more after that, so we’re still working it,” Capito said.
“Is everybody getting everything they need? No. There’s still work to be done, but I think people really rallied quickly to try to help.”
This week, high school vo-tech students presented “tiny houses” to 15 West Virginia families impacted by the flood. Several groups have also delivered Christmas presents to flood survivors in need.