To help cope with the scope of the damage in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee, the Salvation Army has brought in reinforcements.
Local members of the nonprofit, faith-based organization have been on the ground since the flood on Sept. 8-9, and this weekend about 40 more arrived from Georgia to lend a hand.
“The Salvation Army is fully committed to this process,” said Capt. Doug McClure of Albany, Ga. “We’re not going away any time soon.”
Transition is in the works from immediate response to longer-term assistance, according to Salvation Army Public Information Officer Shane Autry of Norcross, Ga.
The organization is providing food in the form of hot meals and boxes of groceries; cleanup kits that include mops, brooms, gloves, bleach and cleaner; other supplies including drinking water and ice; gift cards and vouchers for the Salvation Army thrift stores; and emotional and spiritual support.
“Salvation Army doesn’t focus on disasters,” McClure said. “Salvation Army focuses on hope and relief after disasters.”
To supplement the permanent Salvation Army Citadel at 17 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in Wilkes-Barre, a temporary command center and warehouse has been established in an industrial building at 1110 Hanover St. in Hanover Township which formerly housed Thales Broadcast & Multimedia.
Use of the building was donated by businessman and real estate developer Robert Mericle, who gained notoriety in the wake of Luzerne County’s worst corruption scandal.
According to prosecutors, Mericle paid about $2.1 million to former county judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan to help him get a contract to construct two for-profit juvenile detention centers, and he now faces up to three years in prison after pleading guilty to withholding information from federal agents.
Mericle sent crews to help shore up the levee in Forty Fort during the flood and has since been providing equipment and employees to assist with cleanup in ravaged areas of Jenkins Township and Duryea.
“All of our contributions to the flood relief effort have been completely voluntary,” Jim Cummings, vice president of marketing for Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, stated in an email. “We have no intention to seek reimbursement and never did.”
Members of the Salvation Army appreciate Mericle’s latest generosity: “He really helped us out,” Autrey said.
The Hanover Township building is being used as a staging area and warehouse, for items to be shipped, stored and sorted. They will be distributed through the Wilkes-Barre citadel, where Autrey said long-term case management will be set up.
McClure said there are six mobile canteen units, some of which have been brought up from the southern states, that are being deployed to flood-destroyed areas like Shickshinny and parts of Wyoming County.
This week the Salvation Army will seek community volunteers to help pack 2,500 boxes of food to distribute to flood victims, Maj. Ed Binnix said.
For people who want to donate, cleaning supplies are most needed, he said. They can be dropped off at the citadel on Pennsylvania Avenue, but clothing and furniture must be taken to the Salvation Army thrift shops on Sans Souci Parkway in Hanover Township or Kidder Street in Wilkes-Barre.
“They’re equipped to move large amounts of clothing,” Binnix said, adding, “Because of the nature of this, we need really good, usable furniture.”
“People will be restoring their whole houses,” Autrey said.