MUNCY - Sept. 7, 2011, began as just another normal day for Parker Arritt.
He headed to work as a light rain began to fall over much of the area. But by 6:30 p.m. he received a call from his neighbor that people were being evacuated by boat from his street.
With about 14 people in five houses and a duplex, Arritt's attention soon turned to the many animals that also inhabit the neighborhood.
"Between those five houses, there were six dogs, three goats, two cats and a rabbit," Arritt said. "My dogs rushed into my mind and I went to my boss to tell him I had to go."
Arritt was shocked at what he saw. His SUV barely made it through the flood water in the Bloomsburg area. When he hit 80 mph on Interstate 80, he was hoping he might get pulled over to better his chances of getting help.
"I called 911 on the way and attempted to get (the animals) help while I was in transit," Arritt said. "The police said they were only saving property and lives. I told them they were both my property and they are lives. They explained how they lost two boats trying to rescue a mother and her two little kids and had to try to use the hovercraft to get them out."
Arritt's heart sank when he pulled off the highway to look over at his home. The water was just under his windows. Arritt began to search for someone with a boat but had no luck. His next stop was at Dick's Sporting Goods where he bought a raft, life vest and paddle.
But when he discovered the rapidly flowing water that was flooding his street, his plan was put on hold.
Exhausted, he finally pulled into the Best Buy parking lot and fell asleep around 2 a.m. When he awoke at 7 a.m. he drove back to his lookout perch to discover a vehicle with a canoe strapped to its roof.
The owners agreed to navigate the waters to get Arritt to his animals. The water had receded to about 18 inches. When he arrived at his home, Arritt was overwhelmed by the sound of his barking dogs. The ruined television, couch, computer and home could be replaced, but his dogs, he said, could not.
The next day, Arritt made the four-hour trip to his mother's home, where he made arrangements to assess the damage to his property. The road to his home was covered in at least 1-inch of mud. A second car on his property could not be budged and the smell and sight of his home was indescribable.
"I began picking up the pieces that once were my life and shoving them into garbage bags," he said. "Pictures, electronics, clothes, food, awards. I produced 15 bags of trash from two rooms. The baseball cards I've been collecting since I was young, the pictures of my dad in the scrapbook my sister just made for me. Stuff I'll never be able to replace."
FEMA appraised the damage: Around $102,000.
With the help of people from his church he obtained a camper for sleeping and was able to continue his cleanup efforts.
Arritt also reached out to local agencies for assistance and met a man named Kenton, who returned with three members of the Northern Pennsylvania Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Coalition.?They helped Arritt rip out the insides of his home to prepare rebuilding.
When the weather got cold, FEMA replaced Arritt's camper with a trailer.
Things took a better turn for Arritt when he received a call from STEP Inc. STEP's Flood Recovery Program was seeking out flood victim's such as Arritt and was prepared to help restore the home to livable conditions.
In May, Arritt got the extra boost he needed to bring his home back to livable conditions. Lycoming County United Way and STEP Inc. were the recipients of funds from a joint initiative involving Shell Oil and United Way of Pennsylvania.
LCUW was awarded $12,000 to assist flood victims with home restoration. The intended focus of the initiative included housing; rental and mortgage assistance; legal services; and restoration materials.
Scott N. Lowery, executive director of Lycoming County United Way, said he knew exactly who to reach out to when he received word that the grant would soon be available.
"What we wanted to do was to direct the Shell grant funding directly to flood victims who were still in the process of getting back into their homes," Lowery said.
"We contacted Rachelle Abbott at STEP Inc. as we knew they had programs in place to assist homeowners going through the flood recovery phase. Rachelle's assistance helped us to successfully complete the application process for the grant money and identify a home owner recipient."
Arritt's house is well under way to being a home once again.
Unfortunately, Arritt's story took a tragic turn when his stepfather was killed in a trucking accident in July, and he decided to return to New Castle, where his mother resides, for the time being.
"Look up all the programs that the United Way offers and you will find out that they are much more than you think and they provide a lot of valuable and vital programs," Arritt said. "Without donations from donors like yourselves, I would not be around. I would like to thank them and I would like to thank STEP and all the volunteers of all the groups that have been at mine and other's homes. As hard as I was hit and as much damage was done and the little funds I had to work with, there was a family somewhere that was still worse off. We need to get those families the aid they need, as well."
Please consider giving to Lycoming County United Way campaign this year. The affects of your donation reach neighbors in your community just like Arritt, who may be recovering from flood damage or are facing other human service needs, such as homelessness, hunger, or abuse. For more information, visit www.lcuw.org.