KACS, The Garage, & the community answer the call in Ida’s wake

Copious amounts of rain and wind from Hurricane Ida led to flooding and the displacement of 86 residents from Avondale Apartments in Southern Chester County. Some of the tenants experienced up to three feet of water in their first-floor units. When Leah Reynolds, Executive Director of Kennett Area Community Services (KACS), and Kristin Proto, Executive Director of The Garage and Community Youth Center, learned that families were in immediate need of food and shelter they knew it was time to take action.

Speaking with Leah Reynolds she addressed KACS commitment to the displaced families, “Countless families across the area have experienced the very worst of the devastating and catastrophic weather events resulting in impromptu evacuations, homes ruined, shock, and uncertainty about the future. KACS is committed to remaining by the side of the impacted families, not only today but also in the weeks and months ahead as they recover from these unfortunate circumstances.”

KACS and The Garage are not disaster and relief organizations, however, there was no time to hesitate to protect and provide for the affected families. Reynolds deployed her Emergency Assistance (EMA) Team led by Program Director Amy Scheuren to work with the victims and assist them with their immediate needs. KACS Emergency Assistance Program provides financial assistance for basic living expenses, housing assistance to those who are experiencing homelessness, and connecting those in need with a partner agency.

Scheuren described the scene upon arrival Thursday, “Families were tirelessly working to salvage anything they could from their units, most families losing all their furniture and many personal belongings due to the flooding. Some tenants in the building were rushing to do laundry in hopes of saving clothing, sheets, and towels. Our team went door to door knocking on every first-floor unit to assess what was needed most and how we could help find the families a place to stay. Some were able to stay with friends and family, but many were still left without options.”

As numbers and needs were being assessed and communicated, Proto decided to turn The Garage in West Grove into a makeshift shelter. As drivers were organized to transport those families in need of shelter, community members answered the call and donated mattresses and bedding. Community run Lasagna Love provided hot meals for the men, women, and children brought to The Garage on Thursday evening, and local restaurants and donors continued to provide food throughout the weekend.

Proto reflected on the whirlwind week and expressed her gratitude for KACS partnership, “The Garage team is immensely grateful to the entire Southern Chester County Community for the outpouring of support that the flood victims have experienced in the past week. We are grateful for the leadership of Leah Reynolds and her team at KACS who have been working with us seamlessly to ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors are treated with dignity and care every day and especially during this emergency crisis. The Garage is also looking forward to continuing this conversation with our entire community around long-term solutions to housing.

We believe that safe housing is a right for all people, and we look forward to changes that will ensure that adequate and dignified housing is provided to all of our neighbors”

Although the weather became brighter, the news for the victims returning to their apartments did not. After an examination of the first-floor apartments by the borough’s contracted inspector, it was confirmed that residents would not be back in their homes until the drywall is replaced, which might be a six-to-eight-week timeframe. In order for The Garage to resume its daily programs, it could not continue as a shelter for the families. KACS EMA team worked with The Fairfield Inn & Suites in Kennett Square to secure hotel rooms and transport the families still in need of food and shelter.

Relief efforts continue to be buoyed by organizations, businesses in the community.

Restaurants throughout Southern Chester County have donated hot meals every night and will continue to do so through the month to ensure these families are cared for. Reynolds spoke of the community offering her thanks saying, “The collective generosity of this community helps create remarkable change and hope. Feed a child, and you save not only that child, but their family, their community, their country, our world. You never know what little action you make might have a ripple effect”

It has also been confirmed that KACS was able to permanently re-house two of the displaced families just this week. With the hope of more good news on the horizon, KACS and The Garage continue their work in the community and remain grateful to those who join them to answer the call in the most trying of times.

How you can help:

  • Donations and Gift Cards (Walmart, GIANT Foods, & WAWA – $25 and $50 increments) are the best way to show your support. Please visit www.kacsonline.net and specify FLOOD to direct funds to those in need or mail donations to KACS at 136 W. Cedar St, Kennett Square, PA 19348

Kennett Area Community Service (KACS) is a life-sustaining, nonprofit organization that provides essential services to our neighbors in need through our Food Cupboard, Emergency Assistance, and Bridges Out of Poverty programs.

The Garage and Community Youth Center is an after-school and Youth Development program serving Middle and High School students in Kennett Square and West Grove through our After School, Virtual Tutoring, and Career Compass Programs.

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