CRUSO – If weather analogies applied to the aftermath of a disaster, Reverend Peter Constantian would be in the eye of the hurricane.
As pastor of the United Methodist churches of Long and Cruso, Constantian was one of the first to be in the crisis and will be there for a long time. He is now at the center of the next, much longer phase, which is the long-term recovery process.
The first 90 days after a disaster is considered an emergency mode of operation, he explained, but the next 900 days are what will bring normalcy back to an area.
Ironically, the August 17 floods that devastated Cruso and parts of the Clyde, Canton and Bethel areas of Haywood, to name a few, came on the day Constantian and his wife, Emily, learned that her long battle with cancer had paid off and she was in complete remission.
“We had exactly three hours to celebrate,” he said. “It didn’t really sink.”
Over the past three months, Constantian has spent 60 hours a week or more serving the needs of the community in a number of ways.
Cruso United Methodist Church still offers a free meal five days a week (except Thursdays and Sundays), a full pantry that flood victims can reclaim for free, and pastoral care for those struggling to recover from their lives. this upsetting event. The church is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for meals and food supplies. The program will continue until December 22.
“We still serve 40 meals a day without even delivering,” he said.
Volunteers, led by retired Presbyterian Minister Jeanne Hoechst, show up to open and lock church doors, prepare meals and work in the pantry.
“For specific things, we could use more volunteers to deliver meals. A lot of people are still without means of transport, ”he said.
There is an online registration form on the church website.
Cruso was the source of the floods that swept down the Pigeon River, leaving a wide swath of destruction in its path. Many houses that were not completely washed away were damaged beyond repair. For homes that can be repaired, the race is on to provide a clean, safe and warm place before winter.
The Constantians helped make this possible for the home of a relative of one of their parishioners, but most of the time he found the best use of his time to provide coordination services.
“Most of the time I have found that I am the most effective as a dispatcher,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of connections so I can help people ask where they can hook up to help. I also tried to put together a team of case managers to keep track of the real needs.
Constantian is part of the Canton Missional Network, a group of Canton-area churches that work together across the region to provide everything from gifts of food and clothing to a joint holiday bible school, ecumenical Easter events. and other activities that benefit the community as a whole. . He said churches in the network were instrumental in responding to the floods.
“One thing we were really good at at the start with the help of volunteers was awareness,” Constantian said. “We knocked on the door a lot. Even if you are from the community and have lived there your whole life, there was no way of knowing what flooded and what didn’t. We used a lot of canvassers.
Another solicitation is scheduled for November 20, when volunteers will go around to assess what types of needs still exist.
“When we first canvassed a lot of people weren’t there and people were in shock,” he said. “They didn’t really know what they needed other than the fact that they never wanted to see a river again. We want to check and walk with this person.
Whether flood survivors are still displaced is a difficult question to answer, Constantian said.
Many people live with family or friends or just surf on their couch. He is not necessarily homeless, but it is certainly not an ideal situation.
“I would say take the number that is still in the shelter and double it or triple it,” he said. “From the point of view of the Canton Missional Network, our long-standing mission is to ensure that the children of Haywood County are properly housed and fed. We know from this study that there were a lot of homeless children before the floods. There is just more now.
A vital part of disaster response is provided through Baptist and Methodist outreach efforts, where volunteers are in the community to submerge flooded homes and restore them to habitable conditions.
“If a house cannot be rehabilitated, we have access to trailers, some from the state and some through Methodist disaster response,” he said.
The most urgent need right now, Constantian said, is to catch up with people to discern their immediate needs and work on a way to meet them.
There is also a need for portable heaters, whether electric, kerosene or propane.
Some host sites still only have a temporary power pole that is not able to withstand a large electrical load, he explained.
As the holidays approach, there will be yet another need that the Church of Constantian is preparing to fill.
“We are trying to think about how to provide spiritual and emotional care, especially for those whose holidays will be a little different,” he said. “It’s hard to let go of things as they were, but in the absence of a new goal, we continue to strive for things to go back to how they were.”