LEXINGTON, Ky. -- People in Kentucky who suffered losses as a result of the storms and tornadoes that struck last month, but who still have serious unmet needs, may find help through numerous volunteer groups who will be in the state long after the main disaster response has ended.
The "long term" recovery concept was formed following Hurricane Camille's devastation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969. Organizations grew concerned about duplicating services they knew would be required for a long time. These groups, which today make up what is called the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), have met together annually since 1971. Their main goal, which is also the keystone of long-term recovery, is to increase cooperation, coordination, communication and education.
Even in the face of devastating damage and loss of life, the citizens of Muhlenberg County Kentucky rallied around to help their neighbors affected by the storms. The towns of Central City and Powderly were hit hardest, and community leaders knew that recovering from the storms was going to be a long-term process.
A group of concerned citizens in Muhlenberg County came together quickly. Led by a the local ministerial alliance, the group wanted to do whatever it could to aid and comfort the people who had lost so much due to the severe storms. Not sure what to do first, they looked to their neighbors in Hopkins County for guidance. Just two years before, Hopkins County had been struck by tornadoes and severe storms and needed to put their community back together too.
The people in Hopkins County had formed a long term recovery committee with the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To help find ways to meet the long-term needs of those affected by this disaster FEMA assigned a liaison to work with local, state and national voluntary organizations that serviced Hopkins County. Their neighbors in Muhlenberg County are now doing the same thing.
Michael Bolch federal coordinating official for the Kentucky disasters said, "What we can accomplish in the short-term is only the start on the road to recovery. Federal and state aid is there in time of need but community and faith based organization will be there for the long-term. That's where FEMA's Volunteer Agency (VOLAG) liaisons enter the picture."
The Hopkins County organization assisted their neighbor by helping them with one the most crucial pieces, helping Muhlenberg County receive non-profit status for their group. Future aid from donations for in and outside of the community depends on becoming a 501(c) (3) tax-exempt organization. Technical assistance, like how to write by-laws and the process for submitting the needed paperwork to the Internal Revenue Service that could have cost time and money the people in Muhlenberg didn't have, came freely from their friends.
"We don't have a lot of public resources we can tap into," said Myra Bender, Muhlenberg County's Long-term Disaster Recovery Committee chairperson. "We are going to have to depend on the churches and civic groups in our community to get everyone back to feeling whole again. There is power in pulling together the people from around our community to help us rebuild. We can't expect the people, especially in Powderly, to recover without everyone chipping in," she added.
The FEMA Volunteer Agency Liaison (VAL) is part of a program that works with affected communities to form local disaster recovery committees. These committees and the FEMA liaison coordinate with volunteer agencies to identify unmet needs in affected communities and develop a plan for long-term recovery needs. The VAL was also instrumental in helping the people in Muhlenberg County assess exactly how much community resources would be needed to close the gap between FEMA grant...