BY TIM PENNINGTON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NEWTOWN - Disaster brought them together for the first time in years, but a new spirit of cooperation is what is keeping the village's four churches united.
The churches pooled their resources to help almost 1,000 residents in 250 households here when floodwaters reached the village earlier this month for the first time in more than 30 years.
But now that the water has receded and the cleanup is nearly over, church leaders pledge to meet each day to continue their efforts.
''It's always nice to take something rotten and turn it into something great,'' said the Rev. Steven Rodgers, minister of Newtown United Methodist Church. ''The dust has settled, and most of the repair work is done, but we feel we must continue to serve our community.''
The Rev. Mr. Rodgers' church is working with the First Baptist Church of Newtown, St. John Fisher Catholic Church and Faith Christian Fellowship Church to aid people affected by the flooding.
The ministers and some of their parishioners gather each day at 4 p.m. to see what is needed to help residents, such as food or emergency housing.
They are also working through the Interparish Ministry to involve other agencies and churches.
''We still have some homes that are condemned because of water damage,'' the Rev. Mr. Rodgers said. ''People come to us because we have no red tape. We are quick to respond.''
Coincidentally, the ministers had called a special meeting among themselves just a week before the flooding to find ways to work together to help the village.
Five days later, as the Ohio River climbed past 60 feet, water began filling basements in the village and reaching some first floors.
The ministers say that because of their initial meeting, they were able to mobilize quickly to help residents in need.
''We've never had a great track record of working together,'' said the Rev. Giles Pater of St. John Fisher. ''We just never knew each other that well, quite frankly. But then the flood just sort of fell in our lap, and all of a sudden, we were in sync.''
The Methodist church was a command center for American Red Cross and other volunteers. Faith Christian was a food pantry. The Baptist church housed supplies, and St. John Fisher was a child-care center for residents and volunteers.
Their efforts were so impressive that the Red Cross packed up early and left to help other communities hit by the flooding.
''What those Newtown churches did was absolutely tremendous,'' said Barbara Giles, a Red Cross spokeswoman. ''They were so quick to mobilize and were so efficient, we could go on to help others. It was magnificent.''
With their aid to flood victims a success, the ministers say they want to tackle other problems facing the village, including working with the youth in the community.