When Dorothy Balling walked into the Disaster Recovery Center five days after Tropical Storm Isabel flooded her Middle River neighborhood, she got a lot more help than she expected.
Balling, 81, approached the Baltimore County Department of Aging's table seeking information on rebuilding her demolished pier. She got answers and a $250 check.
"It was an encouragement just to receive it," she said. "To have them give you monetary help right away was very encouraging."
Balling is one of more than 200 senior citizens the department helped. Officials provided about $56,000 in aid, using proceeds from the department's October Senior Expo and "respite funds" that seniors with caregivers were eligible for under the Older Americans Act, said department Director Arnold Eppel.
Eppel said the expo raised $90,000, with $51,000 earmarked for storm relief. Proceeds came from businesses that bought booths, expo boosters and sponsors and admission fees.
The aid, which included grants, emergency meals and a shuttle to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Recovery Center, was distributed to seniors in flooded areas of eastern Baltimore County. The department also dispatched volunteers to help seniors clean their houses.
Eppel said his agency began distributing aid "the minute the DRC opened" Sept. 23. But the $56,000 ran out about two weeks ago.
Balling has lived in her Bauernschmidt Drive house for almost 40 years. During the storm, which hit Sept. 18 and 19, waves from the Middle River stripped the planks off her pier, crashed over her bulkhead, knocked down a 3-foot-high concrete wall separating the bulkhead and her terrace, and stopped short of her house. The front of the shed in her yard was also torn off, and the house suffered storm damage.
"Praise the Lord, no floodwaters came in" the house, Balling said.
She is getting damage estimates; the repairs may not be completed until spring.
Tom Shoemaker and his wife, Jane, also received aid from the Department of Aging. Their house on Millers Island suffered an estimated $40,000 in flood damage. Shoemaker said he may not rebuild.
Shoemaker, 78, tried unsuccessfully to hold his front door closed as waves crashed into the house. He and his wife had to be rescued, and both suffered heart attacks that night.
Two weeks later, Shoemaker went to the disaster center. There, Department of Aging staffers gave him a $300 check and pointed him toward other county agencies that could help him get food and medication.
James Johnson, 63, received $250 from the department, plus nearly $6,000 in federal aid, after his basement apartment in Dundalk was flooded, destroying most of his possessions. He used the money to buy furniture and appliances.
"I was shocked," said Johnson, who got the money three days after officials told him he was eligible. "It came real quickly."