When the members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church raised money for flood relief efforts through their Banjos, BBQ, Blue Jeans benefit on Sunday, it wasn’t all that different from what the church did after the last major flood in 2016.
The event, which featured a bluegrass band and pulled pork, raised about $3,800, said Judi Mahaffey, the church’s senior warden.
Since the May 27 flood, the church has been a hub for Ellicott City’s flood relief efforts.
The Rev. Anjel Scarborough, who took over as the church’s priest in November 2017, said the parish members opened the church the night the flooding began for anyone who needed shelter.
“Donations started appearing because St. Peter’s took such a central part in the last flood that people just made the assumption that donations would come to St. Peter’s, so the next day we started organizing supplies, and mobilizing people,” Scarborough said. Several other churches, including Salem Lutheran Church and St. John’s Episcopal Church, have also helped.
She said the church has 40 to 50 people helping with the relief efforts, and it has housed a variety of donations — cleaning supplies, tools, wheelbarrows and shovels — in the church’s fellowship hall and preschool.
In the weeks following the flood, volunteers served breakfast, lunch and dinner at St. Peter’s, and in the past two weeks, had meals from 4 to 9 p.m. This week, they’ll be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, Mahaffey said.
“We’re trying to provide what we can to care for people, body, mind and spirit. We are whole people — we’re not just bodies, we’re not just minds and we’re not just spirits. It’s all interacting together,” Scarborough said. “So if we can help provide those supportive things at every level — that’s really what the church is called to do.”
Other congregations have helped in a variety of ways, from praying to providing supplies and assisting with labor. Many acknowledged how St. Peter’s has taken a central role.
Mike Louia, the senior pastor of First Evangelical Lutheran Church, said his church helped support St. Peter’s in the effort with volunteers to “help dig out the mud and the mess,” provide supplies, offer spiritual guidance and give away about 50 prayer shawls.
“We pray over them, and there’s a real short note that says, this is kind of a tangible representation that we’re praying for you,” said Dave Asendorf, the senior pastor for Salem Lutheran Church, which also donated prayer shawls. “It’s not only a tangible warmth, but the warmth of our prayers, too.”
Ann Ritonia, St. John’s Episcopal Church’s rector, said they’ve collected nearly $3,000 worth of gift cards to stores — such as Target, Lowes and Home Depot — so residents can buy supplies for home repairs, and the church brought supplies to St. Peter’s, she added.
“It’s so devastating, just the loss that they’ve experienced,” Ritonia said. “It’s been really wonderful that we’ve been able to support them in that capacity.”
The St. Peter’s congregation had received about $7,000 in cash and gift card donations, which are for residents first, and businesses as needed, Scarborough said. In addition to orchestrating food and relief efforts, Scarborough said they’re focused on ongoing spiritual care by providing counselors, and are “hoping to avoid the secondary traumas of despair and depression.”
“It’s going to be a long haul,” Mahaffey said, adding providing relief is more work than it was in 2016. “It’s going to take much longer than, I think, anybody thought it would.”
On Monday night, the Howard County Council voted to extend a state of emergency in parts of Ellicott City to July 30. Mahaffey said the church plans to continue helping.
“We don’t have any plans of stopping until things get back to a new normal,” Mahaffey said.