Without flood insurance and with a long assessment process before them, camp leaders are clear about what they need most to get Buffalo Mountain ready for the 2013 summer season:
“We are going to need all the help we can get,” said Jason Onks, Buffalo Camp director. “We have already received some insurance money for debris removal and will be able to recover lost revenue, but will likely not get any money towards infrastructure and facility rebuild and remodel from damage.”
The Rev. Andrew Amodei, chair of the recently established task force to guide Buffalo Mountain forward, was more direct in his Aug. 16 post on Buffalo's Facebook page :
“Many have said they want to come volunteer. That time will come soon enough. However, right now the greatest need we have is money. We are going to need a lot of money in the end to put things right.”
Nearly two weeks after the Aug. 5 flash flood that severely damaged one of Holston’s four conference camps, Buffalo Mountain has celebrated some victories. Electricity and internet capabilities have been restored to part of the camp, although “we still do not have power on the upper half (Allison Lodge area) of camp,” Onks said.
The main road was cleared off. Temporary homes were found for the camp snakes, Conrad and Corny.
Wesley Memorial UMC in Johnson City donated storage space for furnishings and supplies in Allison Lodge. Volunteers are being coordinated through the website to help with this effort and others. “At this point we have nearly 300 people who have registered to volunteer through the website,” Onks said.
Sign up to volunteer.
“Camp has had such an incredible response from people wanting to come and volunteer their time for the recovery and rebuild effort," Onks said. "We have pointed as many people as possible to our website where they can learn more about how to get involved.”
Churches including First Church Hill UMC and South Bristol UMC are organizing fundraisers, and even the children, former campers, are raising money to help. Last weekend, two former campers organized a lemonade stand at a local business to aid the effort.
On Aug. 9, Bishop James Swanson visited the camp along with the Rev. Walter Weikel, Johnson City District superintendent, and Trish Patterson, Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Ministries development director.
“He had some very supportive words after seeing the damage for himself,” Onks said of Bishop Swanson. (See video.)
“We are learning that this assessment process takes a lot of time to be done right,” Onks said. “We have safety issues with downed trees, leaning trees, and landslides that need to be professionally taken care of before volunteers can help.”
The camp leadership met with Jim Fetzer and Dave Henderson of Holston Disaster Response to “think through this effort,” Onks added.
“We continue to work with state and local officials and must wait until some of the environmental assessments are done with regards to the creek and landslides. We have already contacted everyone who had a reservation through September of this year to let them know to make other arrangements and hope to know about the outlook for the rest of the year very soon,” he said.
Progress will be slow, said the Rev. Randy Pasqua, executive director of Holston Conference Camp and Retreat Minstries.
“We are currently assessing our financial need in two categories: recovery and rebuild … The goal remains to have a Buffalo Mountain Camp Summer Ministry in 2013. The outcome of the evaluation process will dictate how creative we will need to be.”