Student’s Hometown Underwater, Fraternity Fundraises for Relief Effort

Last week, junior Ryan Bankert’s hometown of Manheim, PA was flooded. He has since organized a relief effort.
By Natalie Butz

It had been raining for days in Chestertown, but junior Ryan Bankert didn’t think anything of it until his mother told him that back home, their neighborhood was under water. As he watched flash floods consume his hometown on news channels and Youtube clips, Bankert knew he had to do something.

Heavy rains resulting from Hurricane Lee caused areas around the Susquehanna basin to get more than 15 inches of rainfall last week. Chiques Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna, cuts right through the town of Manheim, PA, where Bankert and his family live.

On Sept. 8, streets, houses, and cars were all consumed by the rising water.

“I almost can’t believe it. I used to play in Chiques as a kid. It was just a tiny little stream, and it’s hard to believe that it took out the whole town,” said Bankert.

Hard as it is to believe, the results have been devastating for Bankert’s community.

“Many of the homes are no longer structurally safe and will need intensive repairs. Those people had water in both their basement and first floors and basically lost everything. If you drive through town you see dumpster after dumpster of people’s belongings that needed to be thrown out because of water damage,” he said.

This new reality is a far cry from the Manheim Bankert remembers growing up in.

“[Manheim] kind of reminds me of Chestertown in that it’s a small town with a lot of history. Everyone shops at three or four local consignment shops and turns out to watch the high school football games.”

Bankert has not been back to Manheim since the flooding. But the stories he’s heard paint a grim and surreal picture.

“My friend’s car got totaled. Her family’s home was completely destroyed. That, I think, is the weirdest part for me, knowing one of my close friends is homeless,” he said.

Then, an old youth group leader forwarded Bankert an email from the mayor. In it, the mayor declared Manheim in a state of emergency and asked for toiletries, non-perishable foods, clothing, and household items.
Bankert has started a campus-wide fundraiser to benefit his hometown.

“People are going to be living in hotels for the next three months. It’s not a wealthy community, mostly farmers who sell at the local farmer’s market. They probably lost their crop with the flooding and rebuilding is going to be really difficult for them financially. Even the smallest things will make a big difference.”

Phi Delta Theta, Bankert’s fraternity, has joined him in the relief effort. It is asking for donations of toiletries, clothes, nonperishable food, and household items. Any donations made can be dropped off at Cecil in bags or boxes clearly marked ‘Flood.’

“The WC community is really close knit and my hope is that we can all come together and help out.”

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