Christmas Cheer, a South Lake Tahoe charity, experienced significant flooding in large sections of its Third Street headquarters after a water pipe burst in an eating area Dec. 11.
Dozens of clothes and some stuffed animals were lost in the damage, but the biggest impact on the organization will likely be financial, Director Virginia Buffington said.
The charity needs to remove the wall where the pipe burst and pay for any additional damages to the building, which are unknown at this time, Buffington said. Unfortunately, that means it will be more difficult than ever to buy food for needy families before Christmas.
None of the food was damaged in the flood, but the charity is already in low supply.
“We still have to buy toys and put together Christmas dinners,” she said, “but now the money has to go into getting all of this fixed.”
Volunteer Mike Gerth believes the flood was caused by a frozen pipe that thawed throughout the night, he said.
At 8 a.m., Gerth was the first in the building. He was in the process of making coffee when he noticed almost 6 inches of water on the floor. He quickly located the busted pipe, which was gushing streams of water.
“I had my finger in the hole,” he said, “and I was on my phone, calling for help.”
By 1 p.m., the only thing left of the flood was soaked carpets and wet clothes. Volunteers were removing ruined donations one full garbage can at a time.
“We need all the help we can get,” Gerth said. “I’ve been here two years, and I don’t think it’s ever been this bad.”
Some people who showed up to get clothes in the afternoon were turned away due to flood damage. Buffington said the incident puts several aspects of the charity on hold.
“I can’t give anyone clothing or give toys to any children,” she said. “We can’t let people back there at all.”
Volunteers or people with donations can call Christmas Cheer at 530-542-4934.