RCIL adapts after water damage

Register Reporter

Forgive the assorted cords, folding chairs and card tables, Andrea Hermreck urged a visitor this morning.
“I’m sure it looks like we’re hosting a telethon,” said Hermreck, a target case manager for the Resource Center for Independent Living.

Among the staff members of the Resource Center for Independent Living in Iola who were displaced because of recent flooding were, from left, Kathy Fuhlhage, Andrea Hermreck, Mark Wiley and Linda Morris.

Hermreck spoke this morning from RCIL’s temporary offices set up at 107 West St.
The center, which serves more than 200 clients with varying disabilities in southeast Kansas, was among those affected most by the June 30 flooding that ravaged much of south Iola.
The center’s offices at 602 S. State St., were covered with 37 inches of water, enough to destroy nearly all of their office equipment and likely damaged the structure beyond repair.
“We were able to get our laptops and case files out of there,” Hermreck said.
Other computers and equipment were stacked on tops of desks. But when the water level went beyond the desktops, those items were ruined.
Since then, RCIL case workers have operated out of their homes.
Hermreck and fellow RCIL employees Mark Wiley, Kathy Fuhlhage, Linda Morris and other receptionists have manned the offices at 107 West St. when they aren’t out on the road.
“We joked a lot about how we were so short of space in our old office,” Wiley said. “Now, we’re thinking that place wasn’t so bad.”
Employees and clients are coping with the temporary inconveniences with healthy doses of humor as well.
“We’ve had to tell a lot of jokes to get through this,” Wiley noted. “It’s been pretty devastating for many people.”
The agency is striving to ensure receptionists can field calls all day because the center does not have an automated message system, Hermreck said.
The primary focus since the flood has been ensuring the center’s clients have access to all of RCIL’s services, and in some cases, assisting those clients who were directly affected by the flood.
The center also has served as a liaison for agencies such as the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services and American Red Cross to provide information about needs among flood victims.
Also, RCIL’s focus has been on letting clients and the community know it’s still in business, Hermreck said.
“A lot of people were accustomed to saying ‘go to the office by the park,’” Hermreck noted.
While that office is no longer open, RCIL is.
The center — one of 13 RCIL agencies in the state — is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be reached at 365-8144. It is on the south side of the street across from the post office. The toll-free number is (877) 944-8144.
Those unable to contact RCIL locally also may call the home office in Osage City at (800) 580-7245.

THE RESOURCE Center for Independent Living serves as an advocate for people with disabilities and helps those clients develop skills necessary to live on their own. The center also provides information and referrals on assorted disability topics and provides home- and community-based services.
Statewide, RCIL has roughly 2,000 clients, Hermreck said.