Community and the relationships that connect them become crucial catalysts to the work of Lutheran Disaster Response – Eastern PA (LDR-EPa). Such was the case when Tropical Storm Isaias devastated the community of Eastwick, a neighborhood in southwest Philadelphia, in August of 2020.
Flooding and high winds damaged many homes. Roofs were blown off. People lost everything on the first floor of their homes as two feet of water settled into their living rooms. The water covered cars. One resident described the streets outside as looking more like white water rapids.
Immediately after the storm, volunteers from across the region and beyond came in to help survivors clear debris and muck out basements. Next would come the work of long-term recovery for those affected.
However, LDR-EPa and our partners in PAVOAD (Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) did not have a relationship with the community of Eastwick to begin that work. To overcome the obstacle, flood survivors, community leaders from Eastwick, and leaders from PAVOAD were brought together by Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management.
The groups began meeting together in October 2020. With winter only weeks away, everyone expressed concerns for survivors in the hope of finding a path forward for Eastwick residents who were far from making a solid recovery.
Eastwick leaders were crucial in helping LDR-EPa and our partners get answers to questions about who was impacted, what the needs were, and the nature of resources of the community. Together we discovered that there were needs for 26 heaters, about half as many hot water heaters, and a lot of plumbing, electrical, and construction repair work.
The group would eventually form the Eastwick Unmet Needs Roundtable (EUNR) in winter of 2021. Since then, the work of the EUNR helped forty-plus families return to a normal life. Its work on TS Isaias culminated in a celebration on October 14, 2023, at Heinz National Refuge, to look back on our work together and share stories of recovery with survivors.
The community leaders, through the Eastwick United Community Development Corporation (EUCDC), will now transition to building resilience in the community and mitigating against future disasters. In Berks County, where summer floods devastated communities, they plan to help folks by offering their expertise and sharing their stories.
LDR-EPa is very grateful to be connected with the community of Eastwick in southwest Philadelphia. Their hospitality, faith, and hope inspire everyone blessed to work with them.