Like restoration in reverse

June 25th, 2015 5:14 am

First Posted: 10/1/2013

JENKINS TWP. — They took everything, even the kitchen sink.

Something felt odd about the way volunteers yanked out brand-new cabinets and door frames from a home in the Patch section of Jenkins Township this week. The house had been entirely restored, but now, after the Federal Emergency Management Agency fronted cash to buy it with intentions to level it, volunteers are looking to recycle just about everything inside.

Volunteers from Carpenter’s Calling, a United Methodist Eastern Conference volunteer group, were in the Wyoming Valley to haul out anything usable for their restoration efforts in Crisfield, Md., a coastal town hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last October.

FEMA made an offer that homeowners in the township found hard to refuse: Take the buyout now or give up any future federal assistance if another flood soaks the community. The Patch, a cluster of 28 homes, sits in a geographical bowl about 1,000 feet from the Susquehanna River.

The township now owns the property where volunteers worked Tuesday, and Disaster Recover Coalition’s Volunteer Director Jan Thyren, who coordinated the Carpenter’s Calling visit, knew little of its previous owners. But she believes the family had weathered one flood too many.

“It had been flooded so often, they decided after they fixed it up to take the buyout so they never had to do it again,” Thyren said.

It was clear the homeowner had spared no expense in replacing the flood-damaged first-floor fixtures with quality materials.

House to be razed

But the goods are of no use to Jenkins Township officials who bought the property with help from the federal agency.

Everything inside would come down with the house that is doomed to be razed in the near future. The house is the only one in the neighborhood restored and then sold by way of a buyout. The other homes brought back to life are occupied.

The volunteers carefully loaded the nearly new materials into a box trailer outside the house. Barbara Hartmann, a volunteer from Montgomery County, takes six or seven trips a year helping families rebuild after disasters. She said this week’s excursion was one of a kind.

“We usually repair homes. This is our first venture pulling everything out,” Hartmann said.

Workers pushed an oversized stainless-steel refrigerator to the middle of the kitchen to make room as others carefully pried off trim around cabinets and door frames. They wanted everything that could still be used, Hartmann said.

When the last bit of usable hardware was packed away, the doorways were boarded up, the house ready to be demolished. It was like working backwards, Thyren said. Her organization has been providing free labor and some materials for those who need help restoring their homes after the flood two years ago.

“It’s alien to everything I’ve been doing for the last two years, to come in and destroy everything that’s been restored,” Thyren said.