Cleaning up Conklin

Aug. 31-Sept. 6,06
Cleaning up Conklin
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Group from Syracuse travels to Southern Tier to lend a helping hand

CONKLIN — Along with prayer and praise, the organization LIFE TEEN has made service one of its pillars. Last week, the LIFE TEEN branch from Holy Family Church, Fairmount, implemented that particular aspect of its organization’s practice.
Roughly one month ago, Conklin, which is under the auspices of St. Mary’s Parish in Kirkwood, had suffered the brunt of flooding that overran communities along the Susquehanna River in the Southern Tier. As a special project, Father Richard Prior determined that the group should travel to the Binghamton-area community to help with clean-up efforts there. According to Father Prior, the inspiration for the project was from the Bible.

“It’s from a passage in the book of James. Essentially it says that faith without works is dead,” the priest said. “This gives the kids a chance to help out in a new place and help people who’ve been through a lot.” The leadership of LIFE TEEN is composed of adult parishioners. Called “CORE members,” they are often parents of children interested in LIFE TEEN or simply interested adults. Maria Miller is one such adult. She sees projects such as the clean-up effort in Conklin as a logical extension of LIFE TEEN’s ministry. “We all come together and that gives us not only an opportunity to pray and worship but also to put our faith into practice,” she said.

The “practice” was helping a clean-up project already well underway in Broome County. Conklin First Presbyterian Church has been quarterbacking the volunteer clean-up efforts in tandem with services offered by city and county governments. Greg Jenkins, the church’s director of flood relief operations, estimated that the community is “45 percent along the way,” but volunteers remain a welcome supplement to community efforts. Jenkins believes it will take one year for the community to return to normal. The Holy Family LIFE TEEN group was charged with helping to remove mold in two homes on Morris Boulevard in Conklin. Chad Diskin, a manager for a local Cingular branch, estimated that his home along the Susquehanna had suffered over $250,000 in damage.

“We were utterly devastated,” Diskin said. “It’s so surreal. You can’t believe that everything you’ve worked for is gone.” Diskin, a Conklin native, said that he had experienced floods in the neighborhood before but nothing that swelled and swept through so rapidly. He said that it took just five minutes for the rising waters to expand beyond the street and roughly 30 feet to the foundation of his home.

The brick exterior of the house had been torn apart after water permeated the interior. A home next door, like several in the area, had exploded the day after the flood and Diskin’s father-in-law, John Grebas, who had returned from retirement in Florida to help with repairs, said that the blast amplified the already noticeably buckling brick walls. The inside of the home was a skeleton of its former self. All of the walls and insulation had been peeled away to allow for demolding. Upon arriving at the house following lunch, the group from Holy Family set about scraping away mold still clinging to the beams inside the house. After that, the group was to use a special vacuum to draw out the scattered remnants of mold. The final stage was treating the walls with ShockWave, a mold remediation spray. Diskin said that it would take another flood of similar magnitude to uproot his family of four from the neighborhood. Since the June deluge, Diskin said he has purchased flood insurance that guarantees full coverage for each potential episode. “We like this area and this community,” the Susquehanna Valley High School graduate said. “It’s a great place to grow up in and it has great schools.”

Although he is not involved in LIFE TEEN, Maria Miller’s husband, Ernie was drafted to help with the demolition efforts. Ernie Miller has considerable experience with such operations and he is no stranger to the area. Thirty years ago, Miller said, he helped with reconstruction efforts following a previous flood in the Town of Kirkwood. He said the trip was “nostalgic” for him.
A LIFE TEEN member at Holy Family who will be a senior at West Genesee High School this fall, Sarah Smith was a little daunted by the task set before her group.
“I thought we’d just be picking up trash at the side of the road and now we’re going to be touching people’s lives — they’re going to be living here,” Smith said.

The youths and adults from LIFE TEEN were able to finish the job they were assigned in roughly three hours. “It was hard work. The kids did the best they could and they finished the job,” Father Prior said. Father Prior said the most significant impact on them was witnessing the ruin the flood had inflicted on the community as some evidence of it was still apparent even three weeks later.

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