Shortly after Tropical Storm Ernesto swept through Richmond, officials declared that the storm damage the city endured-water on roads, fallen trees and power outages-was mostly inconvenient.
But the situation was different in Battery Park, a residential area north of the Monroe Park Campus near Virginia Union University. After an underground sewer pipe ruptured there, causing water and sewage to flood the area, officials evacuated approximately 250 housing units. Sixty-one families were displaced.
To help these families, some of which remain without housing, the Association of Black Social Workers is taking donations for a drive at VCU, which will continue until the end of the month. The organization requests school supplies and clothing, which students may drop off at the Raleigh Building at 1001 W. Franklin St.
Stephanie Grady, the alumna chair of the ABSW, encourages VCU students to donate items for middle and high school students.
“The middle and high school students are being overlooked,” said Grady, a social worker for Richmond Public Schools. She said she was motivated to begin the donations drive for these students when she attended a town hall-style meeting of area residents on Sept. 6.
“Nobody said anything about the middle or high school students,” Grady said, “but they need the same things.”
Grady described the mood of Battery Park residents as frustrated, adding that many people “are wondering what’s going to happen next.”
“There’s a lot of fecal matter in the streets, mud everywhere, snakes, rodents,” she said. She mentioned one woman who returned to her flood-damaged house after Ernesto to find dead rats throughout the kitchen.
Several of the displaced families staying in motels had to relocate again last weekend to accommodate guests in town for the NASCAR race weekend, she added.
Erika Holliday-Walker, the ABSW vice president and a student in the Masters of Social Work Program, said the main cause of contention is the damage to the sewer pipe, which officials knew needed maintenance in 2004 after Hurricane Gaston.
“When the flood happened, Battery Park residents didn’t expect to be in the same situation they were in last year,” she said.
Grady called the ABSW donations drive a “grassroots approach,” saying that ABSW members will give Battery Park residents donated items on a rolling basis as students drop them off.
But students can do more than just donate, Grady said.
“Be cognizant of what’s going on,” she said. “Listen to the news. If you have the time, go to some of these open meetings that they have downtown at City Hall.
“A lot of people like to talk about what’s going on and talk about things that people should be doing, but it’s about what are you actually doing. Anybody can talk about it, but very few people actually decide to do something.”
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