WARWICK, R.I. -- Newly elected Rhode Island Disaster Long Term Recovery Group (RIDLTRG) Chairman Paul Salera said today he is hopeful the organization will be able to complete the job of helping flood survivors who cannot recover on their own within 12-18 months.
Salera credited the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) with providing comprehensive recovery tools enabling formation of the group. FEMA and RIEMA voluntary agency liaisons enlisted the help of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Church World Service to train 47 experienced, local case managers in the unique aspects of disaster recovery. Those case managers will work directly with disaster survivors who may already have had contact with their helpers before the disaster, Salera said.
“Without FEMA and RIEMA, this never would have happened. They were the cement to put this together,” said Salera, who is also division director for Westbay Community Action, one of eight Community Action Program agencies providing most of the case managers.
“We’ve seen long term recovery groups form in other disaster areas, but the size of the effort seen here might have created an unprecedented recovery model that could serve as a gold standard across the nation,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Craig A. Gilbert.
The main idea behind RIDLTRG is simple: Strength in numbers. RIDLTRG members number no less than 71 voluntary and faith-based organizations working in Rhode Island to help residents of disaster communities. RIDLTRG formed as a nonprofit subagency of another nonprofit, which allows the disaster recovery group to receive tax-deductible contributions.
With a 360-degree overview, RIDLTRG can marshal the resources of its member agencies and combine them with government grants and other sources of aid available for disaster relief. Member organizations will contribute to a fund to be used to hire a full-time construction/volunteer coordinator to help residents rebuild. A part-time fiduciary (fiscal agent) will account for donations to RIDLTRG, which will work closely with the Rhode Island Flood Recovery Fund to deliver aid to disaster survivors.
State Coordinating Officer J. David Smith said Rhode Island has never before had a disaster of a magnitude requiring activation of FEMA’s Individual Assistance.
“Many of our volunteer agencies have never had to deal with a disaster of this magnitude,” Smith said. “From zero to where we are today is a credit to the state’s population of wonderful people who are willing to help each other when a crisis occurs.”
RIDLTRG will continue the outreach that started immediately after the floods hit, when United Way 211 took telephone calls from flood-stressed residents and directed needs to faith-based groups responding to the disaster. Some 17,000 volunteer hours were logged at the outset. Nearly 1,000 residents received help to clean and sanitize their homes.
Since the disaster, dozens of voluntary and faith-based organizations have been engaged in forming the group, writing bylaws and a mission statement, and doing community assessments, while at the same time responding to the disaster. But RIDLTRG has now reached maturity as an organization, with the election by its member groups of an executive board.
Besides Salera, the Executive Board consists of Vice Chair Marty Cooper, from the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island/NECHAMA; Secretary Karen Izzo, United Way Rhode Island; Fiscal Officer Cristina Amedeo, United Way 211 and The Point; and at-large members Paula McFarland, Rhode Island Community Action Agency; James Jahnz, Catholic Diocese of Providence; and Mark Doescher, Dunn’s Corners Community Church Presbyterian of Westerly.
The board meets Wednesdays to consider cases and manage disaster ...