Volunteers from 47 organizations donned work gloves and orange safety vests to help clean up their communities in Polk County, Missouri during a beautiful September fall Saturday.
The mitigation effort called Project Bare Ditch, held September 21, is the result of a Federal Emergency Management Agency initiative to help communities protect themselves and help eliminate potential damage before a disaster strikes. "Our vision is to see communities develop faith-based cooperation to turn from a disaster response activity to a mitigation activity," said Bob Bissell, director of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Division for FEMA Region VII, who represented the regional director at the event.
A total of 248 individuals put in 771 hours to help clean out drains and ditches, trim weeds and pull out brush to reduce storm water problems. Volunteers included church and school groups, local and county agencies, Future Farmers of America, the Civil Air Patrol, Habitat for Humanity and the Ministerial Alliance.
Polk County was one of ten communities chosen across the United States, and the pilot county for FEMA Region VII. The processes and accomplishments of the ten communities will be developed into a course at the Emergency Management Institute. The course will help other communities form coalitions with their volunteer and faith-based organizations to protect their communities.
The Polk County planning committee for this event, comprised of Dan Adkinson, Charles and Claudia Good, Kermit Hargis, Tamera Heitz-Peek, John Howell, Rick Lewis, Debbi Roberts-McGinnis, Michelle Morris, Colleen Rose and Duane Williams, is already planning future events, including a monthly newsletter with seasonal weather-related preparedness information, and exercises to test local and county plans.