By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
Christy Crawford has washed and dried more than 200 loads of laundry in the nine days since Big Cicero Creek poured over its banks and flooded Tipton.
She’s washed precious family heirlooms and cared for muddy teddy bears that belong to children who have lost everything else.
It’s her small way to give back to her community that lost so much, she said. It’s no big deal.
“I’m washing a lot of dirty clothes,” she said. “That’s all.”
But that’s not all.
She bought all of her own laundry detergent, dryer sheets and fabric softener to make sure the clothes she returns to flood victims feel and smell good.
Lately, she’s even been going door to door in flood-affected neighborhoods asking devastated homeowners if she can help them with their laundry.
“I’m worried their clothes are going to get moldy,” she said.
Many people in the Tipton area just don’t have a way to do laundry right now. Their washers and dryers were destroyed by floodwaters, and some people lost their vehicles, too. Tipton has no laundry facility, either.
So just about every day, Crawford fills her Chevrolet Tahoe up with sopping wet and muddy clothes, teddy bears, sheets, covers, curtains and pillowcases and drives them to Crudee Duds, her laundry in Elwood.
She spends hours every night cleaning people’s belongings. Then she delivers the fresh laundry to their doorstep when she’s done.
“I’ve been to a lot of muddy houses,” she said. “I don’t think people realize how much people lost. People are devastated.”
Crawford went to one home and saw a family mopping up water left behind after the water receded with blankets, sheets, pillowcases and curtains – any kind of cloth they could find. Then they would wring them out the best they could and hang them in tree branches to dry. Just to do the whole thing over again.
Crawford had to do something. She drove back and forth between their home and her laundry drying the blankets, curtains, sheets and pillowcases as quickly as she could, she said.
And people appreciate her efforts. She’s had strangers offer her $100 bills. Some have bought her a soda. One person had an angel delivered to her back door. She gets lots of tears and hugs.
That’s not why she does it, though.
Why is she going through all this trouble? Her explanation is simple.
“People need help sometimes,” she said. “You have to help.”
All over Tipton and Howard counties, people, churches, schools and community organizations are stepping up to help flood victims – sometimes in surprising ways.
United Way of Howard County Communications Coordinator Beth Rattray said the stories she’s heard have lifted her spirits.
There’s the plumber who went to a home to fix a woman’s water heater only to hand her a bill that read “A & B Plumbing No charge.”
Rattray said she also heard about a waitress in the area who lost everything in the flood. Her co-workers decided to secretly pool their tips one night to give to her. They told their customers and some were dropping $100 bills as they left.
When the Red Cross emergency shelter opened at Memorial Gym, there were two mothers in need of size 3 diapers for their babies.
Someone sent out a tweet asking for help, and within an hour, 15 boxes of that size diaper were delivered to the gym.
“These stories are huge,” Rattray said. “It speaks a lot about the community.”
Bridges Outreach has had teams out every night cleaning homes and ripping out soggy carpet. They called for cleanup crews to help them on Saturday. They needed people with waders, rubber gloves, shovels, utility knives, shop vacuums and pressure washers.
In a blog post calling for volunteers, officials at Bridges wrote, “This past week has been a tough and challenging one for many in Kokomo. We’ve encountered person after person and family after family that has been devastated and lost everything because of last week’s flood. We have a HUGE opportunity to rise up and care for our neighbors and be the Church God calls us to be.”
The 11 third- and fourth-graders at Acacia Academy were sent out Tuesday to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
They gave up part of their school day to deliver information cards to flood victims. The children walked two miles and knocked on hundreds of doors.
“Their goal was to talk to people person-to-person, be a smiling face and offer encouragement,” said Head of School Rob Hoshaw.
Adeola Esan said very few people actually came to their doors. Many had abandoned their homes already.
“It was sad,” she said. “I saw some kids’ toys scattered across a yard.”
Hoshaw said he was proud of his students for what they did, even if they didn’t get to talk to as many people as they wanted to.
“You walked more than two miles without a single complaint, without a grumble,” he told them Thursday. “You were propelled by goodness.”
A few miles away at Kokomo Urban Outreach’s temporary warehouse, a group of women were using their day off to sort clothes for flood victims.
There were at least 36 big boxes and trash bags full of clothes of all sizes that people had donated.
Teddi Heinzman said she would volunteer as long as she could – probably five hours.
When you’re blessed and don’t have problems, you need to do what you can to help, she said.
Every small act of kindness makes a difference, said Deanna Ancil, who was managing the warehouse.
“Even if you’re just folding clothes and you don’t know exactly where it’s going to go, you know it will end up on someone’s back,” she said. “It’s that feeling that you’re helping someone through their worst time when they’ve lost everything. I feel good when I give.”
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