LA CROSSE, Wis. -- From the beginning of a disaster to the long term recovery efforts, volunteers band together to assist communities. When the severe storms and flooding in August washed out roads and flooded numerous homes and businesses, volunteer agencies stepped up to respond immediately.
Since the flooding, organizations such as the American Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services, AmeriCorps, United Methodists, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and United Way have been providing a variety of needs such as meals, emergency housing, and assistance with cleaning and repairing homes. Some of the efforts to date include:
- The American Red Cross provided shelters and meals. Following their initial response, volunteers set up reception sites where they provided hot meals and offered informational pamphlets, water, food and cleanup kits.
- Catholic Charities have helped more than 250 individuals and families. They distributed food and gas cards and distributed 57 pairs of rubber boots in Gays Mills.
- The Salvation Army provided 9,000 meals and 700 flood cleanup kits.
- United Way brought flood buckets, which contained mops, disinfectant, gloves and sponges to areas in need.
- AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps members assisted with removing water and mud from flooded homes.
The 24-hour information referral service 2-1-1 has received hundreds of calls from individuals with flood-related needs. The 2-1-1 system connects people with important community services and volunteer opportunities. Following the flooding, people have called 2-1-1 to find out where to seek shelter and how to cleanup mold. To date, the Great Rivers 2-1-1, one of 13 regional 2-1-1 offices in Wisconsin, has received about 900 calls requesting information on flood-related services.
"We have taken a lot of calls from people in very tough situations, and we are concerned that there are still people who were affected by the flooding that have not contacted anyplace yet for financial assistance or for volunteers to help them. We want to encourage everyone with flood damage or loss to call," said Mary Mundt Reckase, director of Great Rivers 2-1-1.
To better coordinate volunteer efforts, agencies have begun developing long-term recovery committees (LTRCs). Initial meetings have taken place, and now four regional steering committees are being formed. These committees are intended to strengthen area-wide, disaster coordination, share information and assist and jointly respond to unmet needs.
"Volunteer agencies are creating a one-stop shop for people with ongoing, disaster needs so that services can be easily accessed," said Richard Bradley, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) voluntary agency liaison.
Wisconsin United Methodist Disaster Response is leading the establishment of the LTRCs. They will provide funding for the committee, hire client service specialists and offer training for a variety of unmet needs.
Individuals and families seeking further recovery assistance should dial 2-1-1 to find out about what resources are available in their area.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.