Six months later, GPUMC disaster teams still on job in Mulvane

3/12/2017

In September 2016, the residents of the south-central Kansas town of Mulvane got hit hard with a double dose of torrential rain, causing the city of 6,300 flooding that it hadn’t seen in a century.

Six months later, the attention may be gone from Mulvane, but the need is still there.

Case managers Erik Harbutz and Jocelyn Russell Pafume remain on the job helping people of Mulvane recover from the devastating floods from last summer. Photo by David Burke

And two case managers from the Great Plains Conference are making sure those with damage to their homes are getting their lives back to normal.

“We get unique cases every day with these folks that have a real need for a sanitary home, even this late in the game,” said Erik Harbutz, who has been working with Jocelyn Russell Pafume in Mulvane since mid-December.

Both Harbutz and Pafume have offices set up in Mulvane United Methodist Church, 107 S. Central Ave. They can be reached by phone at 316-260-8143.

While the immediate need for help after the flood has subsided, the case managers say that longer-lasting problems have been discovered.

“People who weren’t affected by the actual flooding were still affected by the sewage system being infected,” Pafume said.

Below-ground items including drywall, sump pumps, water heaters and washers and dryers eventually felt the impact, both said.

“When people have that much damage in their basement, a lot of that stuff gets affected,” Harbutz said.

The list of problems “just runs the whole gamut,” he added.

“I’ve seen people who have lost their entire houses to someone who has just found problems in their drywall,” Harbutz said.

While monetary donations are needed, so are drywall and drywall supplies, as well as furniture to replace what was ruined by the flood, Pafume and Harbutz said.

Just as important as the technical and financial advice is the ability to be a listening ear, Harbutz said.

“We have some folks that just want somebody to talk to,” he said. “There are also some folks who don’t know where to start, and there are some folks who are on the right path but just need the satisfaction of hearing, ‘Yeah, you’re on the right path.’”

Both marvel at the work the Rev. Hollie Tapley, the Great Plains disaster relief coordinator, has done in the months following the flood.

“Obviously Hollie did a lot of great work, but there are a lot of people who still have issues,” Harbutz said.

The two are planning to stay until at least the beginning of summer, giving relief to those in Mulvane whose homes were damaged.

“The good thing about Hollie is that she doesn’t want to leave anyone behind,” Pafume said.

Harbutz is a Wichita native and played baseball for the Wichita State Shockers while earning his degree in health sciences.

“It’s awesome when you can help somebody out who’s really in need,” he said.

Pafume was born in Wichita and raised in northern Illinois, and previously worked in human resources and as a case worker for Big Brothers/Big Sisters after earning her master’s of public administration degree from Wichita State.

“I think it gave me good insight into this type of job,” she said.

Contact David Burke, communications coordinator, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.


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