‘It’s Touching’: Volunteers Help Lewis County Gospel Mission After Flood Ravages Chehalis Building

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“Oh, Jesus,“ exclaimed a guest as he walked into the Lewis County Gospel Mission on Monday and saw the carnage: sopping food and clothing scattered across the wet floors, overturned shelves and trash cans and a watermark 3 feet up the walls showing just how much flood water got into the building in Chehalis on Friday.

As wrecked as the inside of the mission looked Monday morning, Director Tricia Ziese said it's already come a long way from the condition it was in when she walked through on Saturday to survey the initial damage.

The video she took of herself wading through a foot of floodwater inside the building to showcase the damage had roughly 6.9 thousand views on Facebook as of Monday morning.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” she said of the damage.

Between the flood water itself and the fact that staff had to cut power to the fridges and freezers, the mission, a nonprofit that serves the homeless community and others in need in Chehalis, lost 90% of its food to the flood, Ziese said. Most of its clothing supply was soaked through as well.

A small work crew was able to get into the building on Sunday to start cleanup in preparation for the large group of volunteers that were coming to help on Monday.

Monday morning found the building packed full of volunteers eager to do what they could to help Lewis County Gospel Mission.

“I’m just touched. A lot of people here at the work party are not our regular people, they’re just people in the community,” said Ziese. “It’s just touching. People are so wonderful.”

Joyce Munroe, a regular weekend volunteer at the mission, said she started working on organizing cleanup as soon as she saw a picture of the flooded building on Friday.

“It’s just so wonderful that so many people are here helping. That’s what it's all about,” she said.

Volunteers were divided into groups tasked with going through different parts of the building and salvaging what food, clothing and supplies they could and tossing the rest.

“What we’re trying to do is salvage what we can,” said Ziese.

In an effort to save some clothes, blankets and sleeping bags, the mission is asking community members to pick up bags, wash the contents at a laundromat and return them to the mission. Once the building is emptied, it’ll be ventilated, deep-cleaned and sanitized, and much of the dry wall will be replaced, said Ziese.

While the Salvation Army and Gather Church in Centralia have stepped up to try and fill the gap in homeless services left by the loss of the mission’s building, both of those organizations are based in Centralia, which, for the mission’s regulars, is not an easy trek to make.

“There’s nowhere in Chehalis where they can get services,” said Ziese.

Many of those who need services in Chehalis are still coming to the building.

“It’s a need that I don’t think a lot of people realize (is here) in the community,” said Munroe.

And even though the building isn’t functional, mission staff and volunteers are still doing what they can to serve Chehalis’ homeless community.

Volunteers have been cooking meals in their own homes, which were then delivered to the mission’s regulars; but just when it seemed like that system would work until they could come up with a better solution, the van they were using to deliver meals broke down.

“We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Ziese.

One option they’re pursuing is trying to get a portable kitchen unit on site, she said.

The good news is that the mission knows where all of their regulars are, so staff can keep tabs on them until the building is up and running again.

Community members interested in helping with recovery efforts moving forward are asked to keep an eye on the mission’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/LewisCountyGospelMission.

“That’s our easiest outreach because we lost everything in the office,” said Ziese.