Community comes together for flood-ravaged food pantry

WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) -It was a labor of love Friday morning as Westfield city workers and neighbors joined efforts to get a food pantry back on its feet.

Open Doors Food Pantry on Jersey Street was filled with waste deep water Thursday after an embankment the city has relied on for for flood protection  crumbled.

Hamilton County Surveyor Kent Ward says that the old Midland Railroad embankment finally gave way.  Ward says it’s possible that embankment is pushing 100 years old.  The break sent a high amount of water gushing toward this food pantry all at once.

But, if you were to drive past it now, you would never know feet of water filled the building.

It was a bit of a shock when Open Doors President Kurt Wanninger looked at the mess for the first time Thursday.

“I don’t know if we’ll get in here,” said Wanninger.

But he never worried, he was confident the Westfield community would come through.

“We had this cleaned up in probably three or four hours,” Wanninger said of the damage.

Westfield Boy Scouts, the Westfield City Fire Department, police, public works and street departments, friends and neighbors all joined together to clean up.

“I’ve been washing all the sewer water down the drain,” said local Boy Scout Alex Couooem.

“I feel good and like I’m doing something over my spring break rather than just sitting on the couch playing video games,” said Alex’s brother Aaron Couooem.

Open Doors has dealt with flooding before, but not like Thursday’s. It was a direct effect from the embankment collapse.

“Unfortunately, with the amount of rain Thursday – the amount of water – it damaged that, which allowed the water just to come flooding through,” said Garry Harling with the Westfield Fire Marshall.

The waters floated nearly everything inside the pantry. It overturned freezers, ruined fresh foods and left a mud-caked floor behind.

It also ruined the spring cleaning basket project the local rotary club was about to launch.

“Pretty much damaged all of the materials that we had collected and were getting ready to pack in these baskets,” said Bruce Watson with the Westfield Rotary Club.

An email blast went out last Thursday and received quite the response.  Thanks to the outpouring of support, Open Doors will be up and running in two weeks.

“It just felt good.  It’s just a great, warming feeling to see the community pull together,” said Wanninger.

Unfortunately, Open Doors isn’t out of the woods yet because of the damaged embankment.

Ward says the Hamilton County Surveyor’s office is meeting with the City of Westfield Monday to discuss plans for some sort of repair.

It’s unclear who is financial responsibility this is or exactly what they plan to do.  Ward says it’s important to get it fixed first and worry about the cost later.  He says the County Surveyor’s Office does have an emergency fund that may be able to foot the bill.  Until there is a repair made, downtown Westfield is at risk of flooding.

You can find out much more on how to donate on their website.

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