After the remnants of Hurricane Ida moved through Delaware and left widespread devastation in its wake, state agencies gathered Tuesday at Wilmington's The Warehouse to provide direct access to aid in one of the hardest hit areas in the state.
"Obviously, as the Food Bank of Delaware, we're here to serve and make sure that people have food, and we got a call Saturday morning that the Riverside section of Wilmington was among the hardest hit in the whole entire state," said FBD's CEO Cathy Kanefsky. "We have neighbors who don't have electricity, their cars were swept away, they don't have food, they don't have any way to prepare any food that they would have, anyway. So we're responding by being here with non-perishables, with bread and peanut butter and jelly and things that are going to help people get by the these next several days."
Dozens of state and city agencies had representatives available to provide information on aid programs as well as goods like food and cleaning supplies. Residents of the area were grateful to see such a strong response from the government.
"It was really scary because this has never happened here. I've lived in Delaware my whole life, and I've never seen it happen. But they were really quick to respond for us and to help us out," said Shukerah, who lived a few blocks away from The Warehouse. "I was able to get information, which is pretty much what we needed, because this has never happened. Bleach, because there's a lot of cleaning needed. I, luckily, don't need any clothing or anything, but it's definitely good for people who really need it...and there's food and stuff, because power was off for a couple days, stuff has gone rotten. There's medical attention. But there's a lot of information, that's what we really needed."
The Warehouse Director of Operations Melody Phillis said organizing disaster relief efforts out of the institution was exactly for which the organization was founded. Being able to provide aid at their neighbors time of need just makes them a good citizen.
"We are the heart of the community. The Warehouse was not impacted as much as our neighbors were. We did have water that came up to the our steps, but we wanted to make sure that the community knows that we're a safe haven, that they have the opportunity to come in and we can provide any support that's needed," Phillips said. "This is our community. We're a part of the total revitalization project happening up and down the Northeast Corridor, as well as in the heart of Riverside. There's no better way to serve than to make sure that we have the opportunity to give back."
There was humility universally expressed by all the organizations that were involved with providing aid to those in need, and gratefulness from those utilizing the services provided at the center. Omar Ortiz has lived just blocks away for 13 years, and he said flooding like this is something he'd never experienced before.
"It's definitely a relief. I mean, they're giving us paper towels that we really needed, bleach. [My mom's] spending all day cleaning clothes that were in the flood, they all smell like gasoline and oil," he said.
To make sure they reach everyone who needs help, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik said it was going to take mobility and flexibility from everyone involved, constant communication, and a willingness to be where the people in need find themselves currently.
"As with any situation where you have something that has such a big impact, you really do need the community, because people get their sources of information and support from different channels," Magarik said. "Obviously, Reach Riverside is such a critical cornerstone of this community. So the ability to have an event like this at Riverside gives people comfort and lets them know that we're really all pulling together to help and support them."