Residents holding down the fort in storm-ravaged Riverside Village Mobile Home Park couldn’t believe their eyes when another storm moved in Saturday evening. Lonnie Jones was in the makeshift cooking shelter that’s been built next to the manager’s office, where dinner brought in by a local church had just been served.
“They all started running away and I’m standing there holding on to the tarp,” he said. “I’m thinking ‘what about all this food?’ – I wasn’t going to run anywhere.”
Saturday’s storm was not as strong as the one that hit on July 23 – felling nearly 100 trees in the park, crushing trailers and smashing cars – but it still took down 12 more trees and did some damage to roofs that were in rough condition after the first storm.
“It’s really scary now when you hear the wind come in,” said Riverside Village manager Sandi McCoin. “It is like we have post traumatic stress disorder.” McCoin said 44 of 138 occupied trailers have been damaged or destroyed; no people were injured.
Since the first storm, heavy equipment has been rolling in and out of the park, taking down trees, chipping branches and clearing roads.
Colbert-based New Hope Resource Center stepped in to help coordinate a long-term solution for displaced Riverside residents. The ecumenical faith-based organization has received a $5,000 grant from Presbyterian Disaster Relief and is now meeting with representatives from Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs, Red Cross and Spokane Emergency Management to find the best way to help.
“This is not just about going in there for a day or two, then going home and feeling good about it,” said Janet Yoder, who is the volunteer coordinator for Whitworth Community Presbyterian Church, one of 18 churches that are part of New Hope. Yoder also coordinates between 35 and 75 dinners that are being prepared by local churches and served at Riverside Village every evening.
McCoin said by far the majority of displaced residents had no insurance. Some have slept in tents and cars near their destroyed trailer homes trying to fend off looters.
“They come in at night wearing black clothing and headlights,” McCoin said, throwing up her hands. “We try to outsmart the looters and we just can’t. Shame on them.”
Power has been restored to the park and McCoin said for just enough time to take a shower and run a load of laundry there was also water.
The water had to be turned off again because there’s a crack in the park’s water main and it needs major repair work.
Meanwhile, New Hope Resource Center is bursting at the seams from donations of clothes and school supplies arriving every day. Volunteers are sorting and laundering clothes there, trying to meet the needs of north Spokane County residents who’ve lost housing and possessions in the recent storms.
“The need for help is huge,” Yoder said. Many of Riverside’s residents were already clients at New Hope, said Yoder, adding that a high number of them are disabled or elderly.
“They don’t have their own transportation, so they can’t go anywhere,” Yoder said.
Yoder said New Hope is making sure all material donations are put to good use, either with New Hope’s clients or with other local social services organizations.
“People ask what the best donation is and it’s always money,” Yoder said. “We can stretch that and apply it where it’s really needed.”
Back at Riverside Village, Jones and McCoin said everyone there is grateful for the outpouring of help.
A group of Mennonites put in a lot of work, McCoin said, but left so quietly no one got a chance to thank them.
“We have had help from any kind of religion you can imagine,” McCoin said. “We are so blessed.”