Flood water is a nasty, destructive element. For the survivors of the 2013 Spring Flood in Alaska, flood waters from the Yukon River carried off or contaminated a lot of items essential for everyday life. Alaskan volunteer organizations are working together with community volunteers to get these essential items to the flood survivors that need them.
The goods donation process starts with the needs request list. A donations center where survivors can come and identify their needs has been set up and staffed in Galena. Alyson Esmailka works in the donations center, which is open seven days a week in a warehouse space on the grounds of the Galena Interior Learning Academy. She stated that she and the other donations coordinators in Galena have been reminding survivors to turn in their needs request list: “Clothing items are what we have on hand that they are looking for. And every time they come in we say, ‘have you filled out your needs request?’ Most people that are here [in Galena] have done that. And we put it out on the radio and tried to put signs up that there is a deadline so we can crunch the numbers.”
The deadline for Galena survivors to submit their needs request list was Saturday, July 27. Having a deadline helps the donations coordinators and individual caseworkers avoid duplicating lists and determine what is most needed. The evacuation of Galena survivors to nearby communities creates the need for this attention to detail. “There are some people, families in town [Fairbanks], people are separated,” said Alyson. “There’s a gentleman here, his kids and girlfriend are in town, and he may have filled one out and she may have filled one out. So we’ll try to note that these two lists are actually one family. We don’t want to give them eight beds when they only need four.”
Right now the most requested items by the 2013 Spring Flood survivors are: tools to be used in rebuilding/construction; building materials; non-perishable food; kitchen goods like pots, pans, dishes, and silverware; cleaning supplies; and disposable paper goods. These items will help the survivors as they work to get back into their homes. Tools and building materials will enable them to complete work on homes with minimal flood damage and the non-perishable food will go towards making sure they have enough food set aside to last the winter.
There is also a need for dog food and shelter, “many pet owners barged their [dog] food in and that’s all been ruined by the flood,” said Tamra Lewis from AmeriCorps. “We are working on getting appropriate food, supplies and transport for the unique needs of pets in the area.” The Alaska Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is spearheading an effort to get enough supplies to affected pets in the flood-impacted communities before winter.
If you are interested in helping with a donation to the communities impacted by the 2013 Spring Flood, a toll-free donations hotline has been established at 1-855-374-4790. For more information on how to donate and the not-for-profit agencies involved in the flood recovery effort, go to http://ready.alaska.gov/Donate. To find out how you can help the animal survivors go to http://www.alaskaspca.org/pet-food-bank or call 907-562-2999.
Once a donation is made through the toll-free number it goes to a warehouse in Anchorage or Fairbanks. Warehouse staff inventories and stores the needed goods until the survivors can accept them.
The next step in the process is having a caseworker examine the needs request lists and identify who needs what. “[The] caseworker is vital in making sure that the person who has the loss is using the money that has been given to them to replace the things that they lost,” explained Alyson. “If you [the survivor] didn’t get enough money, then the caseworker is going to say, ‘They didn’t get enough money to replace their personal property and they have needs that are not being met.’”
Caseworkers also reduce the potential for waste and fraud by ensuring that the needs request list is used in the right way. “It’s for replacing property that you haven’t been given money for because your needs were greater, your losses were greater than what the system has given you money for,” said Alyson.
Finally, a Long Term Recovery Committee with representatives from the community, the State, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prioritize the needs lists based on their knowledge of the community and the survivors making the requests. All in all getting needed donations of goods to the 2013 Spring Flood survivors is an intricate process that requires the cooperation and teamwork of those involved.