HELENA — After a severe thunderstorm on Sunday evening, the YWCA's basement in Helena was almost completely covered in nearly two inches of water. Executive Director for the YWCA, Jenifer Gursky said the flood was something that completely caught her, the staff, and residents off guard, and it will likely have lasting impacts.
"Absolutely flat-footed for an event like this at the [YWCA]," said Gursky. "I was at my house and we're watching sheets of hail come in. Get a call and you know, the 'Y' is flooding and I'm like, 'Okay, how bad,' and then I got the initial picture, which showed, you know, the main group therapy room that we use downstairs, all of it, already flooded."
Shortly thereafter, Gursky reached out to people asking for help to get the water out as quickly as they could, and the response was staggering but, unfortunately, their work was just beginning.
"I put out a call to all staff, anybody with a shop vac, please meet at the 'Y'. We had about 14 people show up, seven shop vacs, and about 25 fans. We worked in that, that group therapy space that we refer to as the dance studio because it has a hardwood floor, about two hours. And then it dawned on us that we should probably go look in the other rooms," said Gursky. "All of it was — had standing water in it."
Gursky noted that nobody lives in the basement full-time but, during the summer months, residents and their families are welcome to move their beds down there because it is significantly cooler, something that will likely not be able to happen this summer. The damage caused by the water will also significantly impact the services the non-profit will be able to provide, including providing donations to women who graduate from the program.
"We have a 24-bed facility and so mattresses as women and kiddos move out. We lost about 25 twin mattresses and about 30 toddler beds and crib mattresses, just purely from where they're stored. We do group therapies downstairs," said Gursky. "Until all of the damage is mitigated, there are certain services that we're not going to be able to do. We're going to have to find some alternative spaces."
While the YWCA typically welcomes donations of all sorts, Gursky is asking anyone who wants to help to do so financially, because they are currently unable to house tangible donations like furniture and dish sets because of the damage. While staff and volunteers were cleaning up, YWCA staff put up an Instagram post asking for help and Gursky says the response was immediate.
"We didn't even think to put the call out last night until half the cleanup was done. And I looked at our development director and I said, 'I think we're gonna have to ask for help,' and it was just within minutes we started seeing donations come in," said Gursky.
On Monday, the YWCA put out a request on Facebook asking anyone who wants to help with cleanup is welcome to join them at their facility on Park Ave. from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
Though the full extent of the damage is unknown at the time MTN conducted the interview for this story, Gursky noted that everyone at the YWCA is grateful to have such a caring community.
"People just show up, and we — we seriously couldn't do what we do, without this community."