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Local Nonprofits Recovering After Flood

Some local nonprofit organizations suffered losses during the recent storm and flooding. Among those is Open Books, a nonprofit bookstore and home to the prison books project. Steven Kell is a volunteer at Open Books who has been involved with the cleanup since last Wednesday.

“The place was filled with water, books strewn all over,” Kell said. “Our computer [was] wiped out--router, cable modem, phone system, credit card machine. We had to throw away all the chairs, a couple of the bookshelves in here we had to carry out in pieces, along with books in the back we had in cardboard boxes on the floor for the semi-annual sidewalk book sale we were planning to have on Saturday. Had to tear shelves out of there, too.” 

Open Books lost nearly 3,000 books to the water damage.

“After we got the main bulk of mud and water out, we had to spend the next three days just cleaning up in corners. We still gotta unload the bookshelves, move them out of the way and clean behind them. Entire sections below the flood line were lost, like our political science,” Kell said.

The Emerald Coast Community of Makersis housed in a small building behind Open Books. The group has hosted beginners electronics classes open to the community and expert level classes led by national electronics companies. Thomas Asmuth is president of ECC Makers.

“We’ve had an amazing number of volunteers at the Art Center and at Makers and at Open Books,” Asmuth said. “We’ve got most of the damage out. We all lost equipment, though.”

Asmuth said the flood line reached 45 inches in the maker space.

“We lost 80% of our furnishings. We’re trying to rebuild a milling machine. Our 3D printer got inundated, water went over it,” Asmuth said.

The ECC Makers created online crowd funding campaigns in response to the storm. Meanwhile, the members are attempting to repair the damaged equipment.

“It’s careful cleaning to try to get any damage out before there’s any corrosion,” Asmuth said. “We’ve still got a few weeks. Hopefully, some of that more expensive equipment will come back. Overall, if you’re trying to look at the stuff we had at the Makers Space, we lost about sixty percent of it.”

First City Art Centeralso suffered damage to its facilities and equipment during the storm. Meredith Doyen is executive director of the Art Center. Doyen says that 37 volunteers assisted with cleaning, bleaching and pressure washing for days following the storm. You can see more photos from the flooding and cleanup here.

“Cleaning is easy, it’s the equipment that the water rolled through and it’s affected the pottery kilns,” Doyen said. “The pottery wheels were submerged overnight. And then, of course, the glass equipment—the furnace is at 2200 degrees all the time, to have that cold water coming in on it and basically shut it down.”

Last week, three feet of water filled the glass blowing studio and the pottery studio flooded nearly two feet. Pottery classes have resumed this week on a smaller scale, but the glass blowing classes are on hold until the glass furnace is replaced.

“We’re able to get some of the pottery stuff going ‘cause we did get some wheels working and some people actually brought their personal wheels down that we can use in the meantime,” Doyen said.

This Friday’s Hot Glass Cold Brew event at the First City Art Center is also intended to raise awareness about the flood damage. Proceeds gathered will go toward recovery at the Art Center and Makers space.

Katya Ivanov, WUWF News

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