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Interactive Neighborhood for Kids holds emergency prep fair in wake of flooding recovery
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Jim Patton, a volunteer with Georgia Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, shows Nicholas Bentley, 7, of Flowery Branch, a piece of wood he just cut in a chainsaw demonstration at the Personal & Family Preparedness Fair in Gainesville Sunday, Sept. 30. - photo by Jeff Gill

Interactive Neighborhood for Kids is still recovering from mid-September flooding, but the Gainesville family-oriented attraction didn’t miss a beat in community interaction Sunday, Sept. 30, thanks to an outdoors event.

People swarmed the parking lot of the Featherbone Communiversity, where INK is housed, for the organization’s annual Personal & Family Preparedness Fair.

Like the hands-on exhibits that INK specializes in at its location at 999 Chestnut St., off Athens Highway/U.S. 129, the fair featured a bevy of emergency vehicles children could climb aboard, with families snapping pictures.

“It’s pretty cool,” said 7-year-old Nicholas Bentley, attending the event with parents Jack and Amy Bentley of Flowery Branch.

“We’ve always talked about being prepared,” Jack Bentley said, “but getting prepared is the hard part. We thought it was time to come and look around, and maybe take it more seriously.”

And of course, check out the fire engines and such, for Nicholas.

He was able to get a piece of wood lopped off with a chainsaw by one of the people staffing the Georgia Baptist Convention Disaster Relief exhibit.

“We want people to know that this (disaster service) is available to them,” said Sandy Jackson, one of the volunteers. “I like to show them safety features too, so if they’re around something like this, they won’t just (randomly) pick up (a chainsaw) and try to use it.”

Volunteers help with various needs at disaster sites, including the recent Hurricane Florence, which wreaked havoc in North and South Carolina.

Fair attendees also could check out INK’s gift shop, which was unaffected by the Sept. 10 flood caused by a small fire that set off the sprinkler system in the pottery studio area.

“But in the back, where our gift shop storage is, that (was damaged),” INK Executive Director Mandy Volpe said.

She said it was debated a little whether to still hold the emergency preparedness event in light of what had happened at INK. But officials decided to press forward.

The flooding had “opened our eyes to what resources are (available),” Volpe said. “We had big help from Servpro (restoration and cleaning).”

The preparedness fair is a collection of “community partners,” including fire and police, American Red Cross and other agencies, she said.

“This is a great way … to share with families how to be prepared in the face of disasters, whether it’s a flood like we’ve had here, or a small fire in their house,” Volpe said.

INK, also popular with school groups, is closed while the cleanup and recovery continues.

But the center will reopen, Volpe vowed. She just doesn’t know when, adding, “We’re just taking it one day at a time.”

INK is accepting donations, as well as volunteer help, in the meantime.