When Ron Curtis saw the mud and dirty water in his barber shop on the morning of Sept. 8, his first thought was of others.
“There was a lot mud, a lot of water and that was a shock … but, I remember I thought, ‘Wow, if I had this, what happened to the rest of Ambler?’”
That question would be answered for Curtis just a few hours later, not thanks to neighbors’ accounts, but thanks to the 12 o’clock news.
“I didn’t have any water at my house, but for some reason I didn’t feel right; I just couldn’t stop thinking about the others. Then 12 o’clock news came on. Ambler was the big breaking news, and when I saw it, I thought ‘that’s what it is’ and that’s what it was: There’s people who lost everything down here and God was telling me something,” said Curtis, the owner of Final Touch Barber Shop in Ambler.
The flooding that took over the West Ambler neighborhood as a result of Tropical Storm Lee arriving so closely on the heels of Hurricane Irene had left homes destroyed and untold amounts of devastation on local families. Curtis said that God was calling on him and that when God called, he knew there was no time for hesitation. Curtis immediately realized that his combination of being a business owner in Ambler and an active participant in social media made his task of helping the citizens through this hardship one for which he was perfect.
“I asked God, ‘What can I do?’” said Curtis. “I go on Facebook every day and I’m hearing people’s stories and so I realized I had to start pushing buttons and open my shop to people with clothes and other donations … then it was on. It was bag after bag: clothing, food, water, cleaning supplies and everything you can use after a flood.”
Curtis said soon his barbershop was overflowing with donations. Residents of the borough, he said, were dropping off supplies faster than he could hand them out to the affected people.
“Shoes, new stuff, blankets, cleaning supplies, we were able to get [the flooded residents] fed and clothed, and then cleaned up afterwards. I‘ve never seen Ambler come together like this my whole life.”
Curtis goes on to say that people’s generosity went beyond handing over the odd bag of clothes and that skilled and able residents volunteered their time and talents to help get flood victims back up and running — and through it all, they took their marching orders from Curtis.
“Everything I asked for I got: I asked a guy to come help clean up a basement and he was there. I had guys doing electrical work; I would send people on missions and they’d do whatever I asked them to. I was shocked to see how people were so happy to do it,” said Curtis.
Now that monetary donations have started to come in, Curtis has handed the job of collecting and distributing cash funds to Zion Baptist Church, which was already set to go when he asked it to take over.
Even though the donations are still pouring into Final Touch and Curtis is still keeping busy helping out flood victims, the lifelong Ambler resident is not willing to take all the credit for the relatively swift recovery flood victims here have been able to make.
“It was easy. It feels so easy because the community came together. It was a time where we had to come together and I don’t want to take all the credit. I‘ve seen people from Philadelphia and Upper Darby getting involved and everyone got the hint. I said, ‘You never know if you’re going to be the one who needs it one day.’”
Curtis said that although the need for clothing and food donations has pretty much come to a standstill, there are still many things people have been left without after the flood — and nothing’s too big for him to take on at his shop.
“We basically took care of the ground work but people still need stuff like washers and dryers. Don’t be afraid to bring them to the shop, I’ll take them. People need hot water heaters, and if some people out there need to upgrade their appliances, they can always bring their old stuff here because people need it.”
Anyone interested in donating to the fund can send checks to Zion Baptist Church, 14 North St., Ambler, PA 19002 Attn: Flooded.