LEXINGTON, Ky. -- People come together in times of crisis. Staying together after time passes is a challenge.
Neighbors helped neighbors and volunteers were the first on the scene when severe storms and flooding devastated parts of Kentucky beginning July 17.
Almost immediately after the rain stopped, the Big Sandy Chapter of the American Red Cross opened shelters in Pike County, where church groups and countless volunteer agencies served food and pitched in on the cleanup.
Immediately after President Obama declared a disaster, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel came into the Commonwealth to partner with Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM) staff to add federal resources to local and state efforts for the response and recovery.
FEMA and KYEM voluntary agency liaisons helped catalog assistance available and coordinate the myriad of agencies that have stepped up to provide further disaster assistance.
"These agencies work together often during the year, but this willingness to immediately meet the needs of Pike County residents has been unprecedented," said Robyn Tackett, Red Cross chapter manager.
To date, more than 2,400 individuals have registered for federal disaster assistance and nearly $15 million has flowed to residents in Carter, Madison, Mason, Lewis, Pike and Rowan counties in the form of FEMA grants for housing and other needs, and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) low-interest disaster loans.
Now, a long-term recovery committee in Pike County is working to help people with needs that cannot be met by Commonwealth or federal disaster programs.
“FEMA assistance is intended to start people on the road to recovery,” Federal Coordinating Officer Terry L. Quarles said. “The Long-Term Recovery Committee will be part of the equation for a number of families, serving as a hub for services and programs that can continue to help disaster-stricken families.”
KYEM Volunteer Liaison Jim Garrett has been busy since the beginning, coordinating agencies and offers to help. “The relationships we’re building through these collaborations will make us stronger and better prepared for the next disaster,” Garrett said.
His federal counterpart, FEMA Volunteer Agency Liaison Richard Bradley, says the design for the Long-Term Recovery Committee features a board of directors with six active committees performing core functions. Committees’ roles are to assess the community, attract financial and in-kind contributions, coordinate volunteers, set up crisis counseling, and case management.
“We’re trying to build the capacity of the community to deal with this situation for the long term,” Bradley said. “It’s empowering the community to recover.”
Private sector partners have helped with commodities, furnishings and in-kind donations most visible in the collaborative public-private housing initiative called “PC South,” to be managed by the Pike County Housing Authority.
Codel Construction has agreed to provide a project coordinator to oversee volunteer labor in the renovation of a 60-room former Days Inn that had been donated several years ago to Pikeville College. The college handed over responsibility to the Long Term Recovery Committee of Pike County.
Summit Architectural Services of Pikeville developed a redesign of the hotel rooms, free of charge. The property, which sat for three years as a victim of a floundering economy is now being cleaned and gutted for renovation.
Plans call for the property to house up to 28 families displaced by the July floods in need of long-term housing solutions. After each case has been resolved, the college will then use the renovated hotel as housing for married students.
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