Help needed after flash flooding destroys New Jersey church, preschool

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WAYNE, N.J. — Heavy rain caused water to pour through the windows of Packanack Community Church and Nursery School Sunday night, but the damage could not be fully assessed until Monday.

“We showed up and it was just mass devastation,” said Karyn Ratcliffe, the Senior Minister. “We’ve lost air conditioners, all of the carpeting throughout the entire building, all of the furniture in my office, all of our office files, filing cabinets. Everything is just destroyed.”

Parents, teachers and church volunteers have been working around the clock to clean up. Some showed up last night to help and stayed until 3 a.m. Monday.

The sanctuary room where Sunday services are held was not flooded, but the majority of the building took on 2 feet of water. It muddied the food pantry, bathrooms, meeting rooms, and destroyed the church sound system.

“It got all the music. I think that cabinet is new, this one is new,” Barbara Johanson said as she pointed to all the ruined equipment. Johanson is a member of the church choir and she is also the church pastor’s mother.

“We just got a new choir director, too. He just started three weeks ago.”

The room where the building’s boilers are kept was completely submerged. The adjoining preschool took on 6 to7 inches of water.

About 100 children are expected to attend the adjoining preschool in September, aged 2 to 5 years. The school relies largely on donations, and the flood destroyed much of their furniture and supplies.

“It really is a community school. The parents actively engage,” said one parent who turned out to help clean up.

They have until September to put everything back together again.

“My daughter loves this school and I love this school. I just can’t imagine her not coming back here in the fall,” said another parent. “We’re gonna do everything that we can."

Parents of the preschool have set up a GoFundMe account. The Church has set up a separate fund.