Tuesday, March 25, 1997
Students weather

Shock over, but aftershocks keep coming

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Neediest Kids of All Flood Relief Fund
NEW RICHMOND - Melanie Hoobler's wardrobe consists almost entirely of donated clothing.

Today, the New Richmond High School freshman wears a dark blue T-shirt eblazoned with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, a pair of blue jeans and black, high-top sneakers.

At 16, she's not concerned with what she lost. She knows her parents will take care of her. But she worries about them.

''My parents saved for a long time - all they do is work - to get a new entertainment center and living room furniture,'' Melanie says. ''It was white leather. Now it's gone. I wish I could get it back for them.''

Today, The Enquirer begins looking into the faces of Tristate children living in the wake of the Flood of 1997.

A flood relief fund, established earlier this month by Neediest Kids of All, has collected $103,175.34. Neediest Kids matched the first $100,000; as of Friday, the fund stood at $203,175.34.

The fund - which will help local children who have lost clothing, eyeglasses, hearing aids or other special items in the flood - is accessible to all local schools whose students live in flood-damaged areas. Teachers will be asked to report needs among children in their classrooms.

Melanie's family lived in the village, in a rented house on Walnut Street, about a block from the Ohio River.

When water flooded over the banks and rose quickly from the sewers on the morning of March 3, Melanie's mother and father made sure to first save photographs of their late son, Tony, who died four days after he was born in October.

''The water got within a foot of the roof,'' says Melanie, whose family has since lived with relatives in Pierce Township. ''We won't be able to move back in for months.''

The Hooblers moved in about eight months ago.

''We started to pack stuff before the water came in, but everybody around us said, 'Don't worry. It'll never get this high.' We listened to them,'' Melanie says.

Her list of personal losses includes a waterbed, dresser and clothing. Still, her concern rests with her parents, especially her mother.

On Wednesday, they went to a center run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

''Somebody gave her a stuffed animal, and she just started crying. She cries a lot,'' Melanie says of her mother, Debby Hoobler, 38, manager of a Milford gift shop. Her father, Anthony ''Dino'' Hoobler, 39, is a mechanic with Car-X Muffler and Brake.

The shock of the flood is wearing off.

The aftershocks keep coming.

Many children who endured significant loss were reluctant to hang up their coats upon returning to school.

''They didn't want to take them off, or wanted to keep them on the back of their chairs,'' says Stanlyn Weyant, a third-grade teacher at New Richmond Elementary, where about half of the 600 students were displaced by the flood. ''Their coats were all they had left.''

Neediest Kids of All, now in its 46th year, is co-sponsored by The Enquirer and these Jacor television and radio stations: WKRC-TV (Channel 12); WWNK (94.1 FM); WEBN (102.7 FM); WOFX (92.5 FM); WCKY (550 AM); and WLW (700 AM).