News

Community rallies support for flood victims

By PAUL BALCERAK

Staff writer

Before Jeff Rider headed off to work the morning of Dec. 3, he took note that Chico Creek was just about cresting its banks in his yard. It was no big deal to him at about 7 a.m.

“I wasn’t too concerned because it had been up that high before,” he said.

But by about 11, Rider had rushed home after a call from his wife, Paula, and watched the creek swallow up half of his backyard.

“We called 911 and they said it wasn’t an emergency till the house was in the creek,” he said.

It wasn’t too long before the Riders were calling 911 again.

The family scrambled throughout the day to save what they could from their submerged home and thanks to plenty of help, they were able to move a good amount of items into their garage.

But the damage was done. The house was completely destroyed and the Riders had moved into a trailer on Jeff’s cousin, Chris Orcutt’s, property the next day.

Then came the stark realization that many of the plans the Riders had made had washed away with their home.

The house had been paid off two years earlier and Jeff was just a few reams of new carpet away from selling it off and retiring on the profits. The 39-year-old Alternative Auto Body painter had already remodeled the kitchen and was looking forward to making a new life moving into homes, fixing them up and turning a profit on them.

Now his retirement is on hold.

“Basically, it went from being a $225,000 home to being about $60,000 now,” he said.

The Riders’ insurance company is helping out with the damage, but the money the family will receive won’t be enough to afford a new home. The family also has received just under $2,000 in FEMA funding.

But it’s not all sorrow and gloom for the family. The Riders have been in pretty high spirits lately.

In the days following the flood, family and friends “came out of the woodwork” to help get the family back on its feet, he said. “It’s amazing to see how many people step up. You really find out who your friends are.”

Droves of people — some of whom Jeff and Paula had only met a couple times — showed up at the house to help move things into storage.

A friend of Jeff’s helped move some of his six cars on the property with a flatbed truck. Another with an excavator has offered to help Jeff pull his house out of the creek — free of charge. Another set up a flood relief fund for the family at Bank of America that has amassed about $6,000 thus far.

“It was amazing to see people come out like that and say, ‘anything I can do to help you,’” he said.

The family also has managed to maintain a pretty healthy sense of humor about the whole situation.

“It’s been rough, but we look at it as, ‘what are you gonna do?’” Jeff said.

And it’s not slowing down, either. This Saturday, Orcutt is hosting a silent auction to help benefit his ailing cousin. As if offering him a place to stay wasn’t enough, Orcutt has been out and about town for the last month rousing up donations for the auction from local businesses at the advice of his brother-in-law, Ed Sunkel.

“It just kind of fell together,” Orcutt said of the auction, adding that he expects a “pretty good turnout” at Central Kitsap Junior High School.

He’ll also be collecting donations through the rest of this week.

“I’m not done yet,” he said.

In the meantime, Jeff and Paula have been slowly getting back on their feet. Just last weekend, they found a new place to live and thanks to the donation money, were able to put a down payment on it.

“It’s on a flat piece of land that’s as far way from the creek as I can get it,” Jeff said.

Saturday’s auction is open to anyone and people also can donate to the family at any Bank of America.

Jeff and Paula are in the process of forming a list of everyone who’s helped them out thus far and he expects it to grow considerably after Saturday.

“We just want to thank everyone who’s helped out,” he said. “It’s one of those things; as bad as the experience was, things came out pretty neat.”

Auction

Silent auction to benefit flood victims Jeff and Paula Rider

Saturday, Jan. 12

1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Central Kitsap Junior High School

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