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Carolers spread Christmas spirit in flood-devastated Ellicott City

(John Fisher, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Carolers from First Evangelical Lutheran Church brought some holiday cheer to downtown Ellicott City Dec. 18, going door-to-door and singing Christmas songs to show support and wish good tidings for Main Street residents and businesses whose properties are still recovering from the July flash flooding.

The group rented a school bus to travel to Main Street, where it teamed up with singers from Emory United Methodist and St. John's Episcopal churches to perform holiday classics such as "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night" and "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer," accompanied by the ringing of little bells.

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The performances were met with applause from residents and passerby.

"I think at Christmas time, it's always good to have caroling whether you've been devastated or not," said Melanie Durantaye, a Main Street resident whose home was damaged in the flood. "I think the important thing is that even though we have more work to do, the community has appreciated the support, and the carolers were just wonderful to come by today. So, of course it makes us very happy."

It seems logical to assume that the Ellicott City Station of the B&O Railroad Museum must have been among the hardest hit structures during the deadly flash flooding that nearly destroyed the historic mill town.

The singers caroled down Main Street and into town, stopping off at the homes of residents along the way to sing a few tunes before heading into Ellicott City's business district. There, the carolers dispersed into two groups in an effort to spread the Christmas spirit in multiple areas, including the historic Thomas Isaac Log Cabin and the B&O Railroad Museum, and at the intersection of Main Street and Old Columbia Pike and at Tongue Row, by the Little French Market.

"It's really great to be able to go out and spread some cheer," said Cathy Rice, a member of First Lutheran and one of the carolers. "And no matter what you're going through, sometimes it's just nice to know that there are people who are kind of on your side."

The caroling was just one in a series of events set up by One EC Recovery Project, a community-based organization set up to provide financial assistance and resources for the reconstruction process following the July flood. The project also held other events over the weekend, including Emory United's Christmas concert and fundraiser to raise donations for the recovery effort, and a holiday end-of-year celebration organized by St. John's for Main Street residents.

The Rev. Gigie Sijera-Grant, of First Lutheran, said the recovery process is estimated to take three to four years, and that the church, which has caroled for more than 30 years, especially wanted to focus its efforts this year to help create joy for those affected by the flood.

100 days after a devastating flood, Main Street Ellicott City business are eyeing a long return to normalcy as holiday shopping season comes into full swing, new faces come in and landmarks leaves.

"We are hoping that they know they're not alone, that we have a caring community willing to walk with them through this journey," she said. "This is just our way of spreading the Christmas spirit and reaching out to them and saying, 'hey, you're not alone, and we're here for you.'"

The project is currently working with 30 to 40 families and has found 150 places and area that are in need of rebuilding. For more information on the One EC Recovery Project, go to oneecrecoveryproject.org.

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