BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH - Dorothy Cookendorfer started life over a week ago today.
To give, get help
To volunteer or request help from the Pencare coalition, call (606) 654-2444 or fax (606) 654-2555.
An account has been set up at United Kentucky Bank for anyone wishing to donate money. Call Treasurer Darin Hart at (606) 654-2500.
Standing in the living room of her Rigg Street home, on a new blue-and-gray speckled rug with a plastic scent, the 79-year-old woman was the captain.
She turned to her daughter, Carolyn Vanlandingham, and ordered her to take down the neon-orange rebuilding permit taped to her front door. The act was like the christening of a ship.
"Take if off the door now 'cause I'm done," Mrs. Cookendorfer said.
It's been nearly three months since the Licking River tore through Falmouth, killing five residents and destroying decades of dreams. A big factor in the recovery has been a group of volunteers called Pencare - a coalition of church and civic leaders that matches workers with residents needing to rebuild and repair.
"As groups come in, we find what they can do and put them to work," said the Rev. Ken Gates, a Pencare worker. "We like for them to go straight to work."
Inside Pencare offices, pictures and descriptions of properties hang on the walls. A file for each lies on a desk. Some homes need new windows, roofs and drywall. Others just need some reinforcements and insulation.
The Rev. Mr. Gates and Pencare Director E.T. Ray will make sure the work gets done. Mrs. Cookendorfer's home was one of the first, where much of the work was done by a group of Mennonites.
More volunteers arrive each day from across the nation. Christian Aid Ministries and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team are in town now.
At 503 Barkley St., a North Carolina crew from Baptist churches put on a roof and hung drywall.
"We've got every kind of skill you can think of," said crew chief Tony Howell.
Most volunteers have taken a week off work to come to Falmouth. They come by invitation only and bring all of their own supplies and food, packed in trailers. One group of 160 is living the week in tents at the fairgrounds.
After Falmouth, they'll go to work in Grand Forks, N.D.
"It's the most rewarding ministry I've ever worked in," volunteer Paul Wilson said. "All types of people volunteer and you really bond. You make a lot of friends when you work with people this way." Pencare relies completely on donations of time, materials and money. And it won't do any repairs on homes waiting for a possible buyout by the city.
"The buyout is for people who want to go," Mr. Ray said. "We're here for the people who have said they're going to stay."
That would be people like Mrs. Cookendorfer. She was so proud of her "brand-new house" that she made the Rev. Mr. Gates come in for a tour.
Between unpacking and rearranging her new and donated furniture, Mrs. Cookendorfer likes to be on her porch. "I like to go out and talk to people," she said. Most of her neighbors aren't coming back though.
No matter. She sways back and forth on her porch swing that survived the flood.
"It's my home and it always will be. I'm ready to come home," she said. "I'm staying the night tonight. First time since March 1."