Six months after June flash floods devastated southern West Virginia, some local organizations say they can vouch that their fundraised proceeds are going directly to flood victims.

One of these organizations, Save the Children, which focuses on helping children in Kanawha, Clay, Roane, Nicholas, and Greenbrier Counties, raised $1.3 million for the recent flood victims with the help of Charleston native and celebrity Jennifer Garner.

According to Anna Hardway, the charity’s West Virginia state director, the organization is putting the money to good use.

“Accountability is a large piece of what we do,” Hardway said. She explained that by working closely with childcare providers, the community, and public schools to help resume regular programming for kids (many in temporary settings), “ … a great majority of our funds are going directly to the children.”

A December 15 (2016) Save the Children press release stated: “Heartfelt contributions have driven work that, to date, has directly or indirectly benefited 55,000 children and adults.”

Hardway added: “Twenty-five percent of the $1.3 million went to help people during Phase I of our efforts. This phase lasted about thirty to forty-five days, whereby we assessed the situation and provided immediate support to the hardest hit areas. We distributed basic care supplies (infant care supplies), household items (cookware and blankets), as well as cash and gift cards.”

Now in Phase II, the recovery phase, Save the Children is looking at children’s learning environments. “We’re working with our national partners like DHHR childcare providers and school districts,” said Hardway.

According to Save the Children, as a result of the flash floods, over 100 schools, libraries, and child care centers that provide essential support and services were affected. During Phase II, Save the Children is also working with local long-term recovery groups.

“We opened up initial sub-grants of five thousand dollars each for the long-term recovery teams,” explained Hardaway. “Of course, the teams will receive more than that; that was just to get them started. For example, the Roane County recovery group used its grant to build a well for a family that didn’t have any water.”

Another one-third of the $1.3 million will fund Save the Children’s “Journey of Hope,” a psycho-social support and resiliency program—established to help children learn to identify and manage their emotions and develop healthy coping skills for stress and trauma in a supportive environment. It was created in 2007 after Hurricane Katrina—to be used in school and community settings following many U.S. natural disasters and emergencies.

Another fundraising effort, Jefferson County’s FLOOD LOVE, was able to raise $8,000 under the umbrella of One Love Inc., a local charity nonprofit.

“We’re a group of Shepherdstown citizens who got together informally after the floods, wanting to do something—so we organized an event at the Town Run Brewing Company in Shepherdstown,” said Christopher Stroech, one of the fundraisers, and a lawyer with Arnold & Bailey in Charles Town. “It was an all-day event, many bands played for free, we had a silent auction with lots of donated items, raffles, and we accepted donations at the door.”

All the donations were tax deductible, with all funds going to the H.D. White Elementary School in Clay County, explained Stroech. H.D. White was severely damaged in the flooding with the access bridge and playground area being washed away.

“We fundraised for that school for that purpose,” Stroech said. “About a month later, we traveled down and handed the check to the principal of the school.”

Members of the WV Air National Guard unload a street sweeper in Clendenin, WV (June 2016, Photo ©U.S. Air National Guard).

Questions Raised

All patronage considered, some folks are concerned that donations aren’t reaching their intended destinations.

According to NBC affiliate and Huntington-based (WV) WSAZ-TV News, large amounts of funds raised for flood victims are still unaccounted for.

The news station reported five months after the floods hit that America’s Got Talent winner and West Virginia native, Landau Murphy, Jr., along with other local celebrities, got pledges worth more than $326,000 in a Rebuild West Virginia telethon. All proceeds were designated for the American Red Cross, but Executive Director Erica Mani said the Red Cross only received $260,000 from the telethon.

West Virginia Red Cross Regional Communications Officer Krista Farley said, “The total amount we raised was $4.35 million, and we extended $5.78 million. So we spent more than we raised.”

Country singer Brad Paisley launched a gofundme account with $100,000 of his own money, which reached $689,042. Yet, only $105,000 of the total has been gifted, said the news source.

Of the Paisley funds that have been distributed, $25,000 went to the Greater Clay Long Term Recovery Committee; $25,000 went to the Greater Greenbrier Long Term Recovery Committee; $25,000 went to the United Way of Southern West Virginia—to assist the Greater Nicholas Long Term Recovery Committee; and $25,000 went to Hands on WV—to benefit the Greater Kanawha Long Term Recovery Committee. All $100,000 was designated for HVAC construction.

Rhonda McDonald, chairwoman of the Greater Clay County Long Term Recovery Committee, said her organization’s $25,000 grant only covered about four to five HVAC estimates.

“We asked for assistance for weatherization and HVAC maintenance; the HVAC work alone is estimated to be $145,000,” she noted. “Nortek Global Manufacturer HVAC donated units to flood victims, but that doesn’t include installation or related accessories like duct work. Nortek will only ship by tractor trailer loads, so we’re partnering with Nicholas County Long Term Recovery Committee so we’ll have enough for a whole trailer.”

“It’s a lengthy process,” McDonald said. “Right now we’re in the estimate stage. An installer has to go to each home and make an estimate. We can’t order the systems until we get the estimates done.

“We were hoping the Paisley Foundation would send more, and we might go back to them and ask for more.”

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