PASADENA, Calif. -- This holiday season several thousand families in Southern California may have found in their stockings lumps of coal that signify the loss of their homes or businesses from recent wildfires. However, a precious gift is being offered to many of these families to help them replace the lumps with meaningful gifts.
Hundreds of volunteers in San Diego and San Bernardino counties, banded together as long-term recovery committees, are helping families put their lives and homes back together piece by piece. These volunteers, working through the committees, are combing the nooks and crannies of their communities to meet the unmet needs of fire-affected neighbors. The gifts that these volunteers bring are energy, compassion and the tangible items that make life work.
"This is the hard work-and the heart work-of recovery," said John Chavez, a coordinator of volunteer services with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Faith-based, community-based, and voluntary agencies have maneuvering room to meet remaining needs after federal and state disaster programs have provided money for temporary housing and disaster-related unemployment benefits."
Faith-based voluntary agencies play a key role in the long-term recovery process by performing such services as free labor for removing debris, rebuilding houses, and securing free lumber. They subcontract with local firms for electrical, plumbing, drywall and other specialties.?
FEMA personnel, in partnership with the Individual Assistance staff from the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES), help coordinate voluntary organizations and keep them up to date with federal disaster recovery information.
Together, they are creating a plan to identify and assist residents over the next few years. For example, case workers may help to locate appliances, clothing, or whatever else the family may need, based upon what's available from voluntary agency sources.
"Long-term recovery committees are carried squarely on the backs of friends and neighbors," said Chavez, "and they will be working this holiday season and for years to come. You might say that these volunteers are the guardian angels of disaster recovery."
To apply for assistance from a voluntary organization, call 211 or visit a local agency such as the Salvation Army or the American Red Cross. To contribute to the volunteer recovery effort in Southern California, call 1-800-750-2858 or visit the OES Web site at www.oes.ca.gov.
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.