ORLANDO, Fla. -- As Floridians prepare themselves and their families for another hurricane season, government and nonprofit officials are urging them also to prepare to help others if a storm should strike the state.
"Generous volunteers meet essential needs. Their tireless efforts help supplement what government programs provide," said Scott R. Morris, Florida long-term recovery director for the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Volunteers tackled the challenges of last year's hurricane season head on, and we encourage a redoubled volunteer effort this year. And to make disaster volunteerism more effective, residents should consider how and where to volunteer now, before a storm strikes. "
Close cooperation among federal and state officials and nonprofit organizations is critical to successful disaster relief and recovery efforts. For its part, FEMA uses Voluntary Agency Liaisons to assist voluntary agencies with federal assistance programs, coordination with other volunteer organizations, donation management, and identifying special needs populations.
Volunteers have proven indispensable in past disaster response and recovery efforts in Florida. Last year's hurricane season was met with a wealth of donations and volunteerism from Florida individuals and organizations. In 2005, volunteers staffed phone banks, distributed emergency food and water, and cleared debris in response to Hurricane Wilma - and the other hurricanes that tested Florida residents during the 2005 season.
In many cases, volunteerism that was initially a response to Hurricane Katrina - both to the devastation along the Gulf Coast and evacuees who came to Florida after the storm - dovetailed with Wilma response and recovery initiatives. Volunteer efforts from past hurricanes, and the networks developed to speed those endeavors, proved vital - and were strengthened even further by last year's response.
"Given Florida's recent history of hurricane activity, we are especially aware of the value of neighbors helping neighbors - those who volunteer their time and talents to rebuild Florida communities," said Craig Fugate, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. "Volunteers are the unsung heroes that truly help change outcomes in the recovery process. I urge all Floridians to get involved, volunteer, and make a difference in their hometowns."
According to statistics compiled by Volunteer Florida, the Governor's Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, during the 2005 hurricane season, some 112,600 volunteers contributed 4.7 million hours of service statewide. The total volunteer contribution in response to Florida's 2005 hurricane season, including in-kind donations and total volunteer hours, was valued at $105.6 million (up from an estimated volunteer contribution of $102 million in 2004). Those participating in the volunteer efforts included faith-based groups, United Way chapters, local volunteer centers and hunger-relief organizations. Those affected by the 2005 hurricanes received 5.8 million meals prepared or donated by volunteers.
Corporations, relief organizations and private individuals donated 7.9 million bottles of water and nearly 257,000 bags of ice for hurricane relief. In addition to these efforts inside the state, many Florida volunteers traveled to other areas of the country affected by hurricanes during the 2005 season.
Volunteers Make a Difference - In and Out of Hurricane Season
Voluntary organizations throughout the state of Florida need volunteers year-round, for a wide array of projects - cleaning up parks, organizing food pantries, fostering literacy, working with disadvantaged children, tutoring students, helping children with disabilities and lending assistance to the homeless. Local American Red Cross chapters respond to disasters year-round, from house...