LEXINGTON, Ky. -- In the first days after the May storms raged through Kentucky, the television images were dramatic and heart-breaking: scores of volunteers cutting tree limbs from houses and roads, removing debris, cleaning mold from flooded homes, and giving comfort to those who lost so much.
But when the emergency response ends, the TV cameras leave, and the sky turns blue, the volunteers are still working in communities throughout the Commonwealth. Disaster survivors who have serious unmet needs can take heart in knowing that a band of dedicated volunteers plan to be where needed.
These volunteer groups form Long-Term Recovery Committees. Under the umbrella of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), www.nvoad.org, members of Kentucky VOAD and their partners reach out to local faith-based organizations, non-profit agencies, service clubs, business owners and individuals in a team effort to develop reasonable solutions for individuals and families in crisis.
"The committees provide a personal, people-to-people partnership so vital to the recovery process," said Verdie Culpepper, a voluntary agency liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "A key feature of the program is to identify the serious needs of survivors and then organize a way to meet those needs without duplicating services."
A team of professional case management supervisors and volunteer case managers work with survivors to assess their specific needs. The committees use every method possible to identify people who need a hand-up to start them back on the road to recovery. Referrals come from churches, social service agencies, schools, friends, and neighbors. "We can’t help people if we don’t know who they are or what they need," said Culpepper.
Unmet needs encompass a broad range of services. One family may need help repairing a roof, another transportation to find a job, or another financial assistance.
Case managers first help survivors by directing them to services and benefits they are entitled to but may not have applied for. They provide guidance in the steps to full recovery and continue their support until the families or persons are able to stand on their own. The approach is comprehensive and may involve multiple services. Case managers do not provide direct aid; rather, they work with the survivor to assess needs and help families find solutions.
People who want to volunteer or disaster survivors who need help should contact non-profit or faith-based organizations in their local community.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.