ORLANDO, Fla. -- Volunteers have made enormous contributions to disaster response and recovery efforts after recent Florida tornadoes sliced through four counties. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Florida 's State Emergency Response Team (SERT) urge Floridians to continue responding to the affected areas.
"We are here to assist the state... This is not something that one entity can do alone," FEMA Director David Paulison said. "If we work together, we can get through this disaster, that's what the new FEMA is all about."
Close cooperation among federal and state disaster specialists, individuals and nonprofit organizations is critical to successful disaster relief and recovery efforts. FEMA works closely with many of these wide-ranging citizen efforts by identifying relevant federal assistance programs, coordinating volunteer organizations, seeking special needs populations, and managing donations.
"This has to be a partnership, because ultimately the communities are entitled to take responsibility and empower themselves." said Paulison.
The hard work of volunteers goes hand in hand with FEMA's and SERT's mission to help the affected victims on the road to recovery. At a recent Volunteer Recognition Event at Lady Lake Mobile Home Park, Governor Charlie Crist and other elected officials thanked the volunteers for serving our impacted communities, and encouraged people to continue their support of the disaster relief organizations that have been actively assisting those communities.
Crist expanded the Florida Disaster Recovery Fund, formerly known as the Florida Hurricane Relief Fund founded in 2004. The fund, managed by the Volunteer Florida Foundation, works with non-profit organizations in affected communities.
"Regardless of whether tragedy strikes in the form of a hurricane, tornado or other disaster, it is crucial for neighbors to help neighbors," said Crist. "Just as they have in the past, Floridian's will help those in need."
Highlights - Volunteer Activities
The following are highlights of how some volunteers jumped at the chance to help their fellow Floridians in response to the devastation of neighboring communities:
- American Red Cross has over 500 volunteers and staff, many have been here since the onset of the tornadoes;
- Catholic Charities of Central Florida solicited collections to aid survivors;
- Charley's Angels are positioned to help in several needed areas;
- Christian Contractors partnered with Lake County to establish a Volunteer Field Base Camp;
- Christian Disaster Response delivered MREs and personal health kits;
- Compassion Alliance estimated 100 volunteers working in the affected areas;
- Convoy of Hope provided 2 truck loads of food to Lady Lake and Deland;
- Florida Baptist Disaster Relief completed 185 homes' debris removal;
- Florida Crisis Response Team/Office of the Attorney General team of crisis responders provided emotional support;
- Florida United Methodist Conference prepared for long-term rebuild in all counties;
- Heart of Florida United Way handled calls from individuals who wish to donate goods or supplies;
- Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery directed and referred victims to local agencies;
- Latter Day Saints (L.A.S.E.R.) 545 volunteers provided tarps and conducted debris removal;
- Nightrunners deployed staff and resources to affected areas;
- Operation Blessings provided much needed large cranes and volunteers to assist in th...