CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Sometimes it takes a disaster to again illuminate how deeply ingrained charity is in the American character. The recent tornadoes, severe storms and subsequent flooding will leave many West Virginians with unmet needs, despite the best efforts of the county, state and federal governments.
First responders like the police, fire and emergency medical services do their jobs of rescue and response. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and its state and county counterparts do their jobs of support and recovery. But even after the intervention of government entities and the spending of millions of dollars, many folks are left adrift and in need of more than immediate help.
That’s where the volunteer long-term recovery assistance comes in. And that work is usually spearheaded by faith-based and secular organizations that pitch in with the special talents and sometimes the sweat needed to get people back on their feet.
“FEMA can help start the recovery process,” said FEMA’s Voluntary Agency Liaison Carol Gordon. “But many impacted residents will have unmet needs that may take several years to completely satisfy. We work closely with the local faith-based and volunteer agencies and individual big-hearted residents to help them find resources to fulfill the needs in an organized and efficient way. To those volunteers involved in the recovery process, it is not a burden but a gift to be able to help those survivors of a disaster find their way to recovery.”
The volunteers who are putting together the Logan Recovery Group (LRG) met recently in Logan City Hall to plot their strategies and tactics. A refreshing lack of bureaucratic inertia was evident; instead there was a robust enthusiasm for giving, helping and working together without the often crippling constraints of technical legalities and official procedures.
While FEMA, state and county agencies help coordinate the work, the bulk of the efforts in Logan will be the responsibility of more than 15 local and national volunteer organizations, both secular and faith-based, all under the umbrella of the LRG. The work they do is not financed by the government; it is supported through charitable donations alone. And the help is not restricted to officially declared disaster areas but is available to anyone who was hurt by the storms.
The LRG’s mission statement makes it clear: “... to provide recovery services to individuals and families affected by the floods in Logan County and contiguous areas on March 15, 2012... The goal of the Logan Recovery Group is to see all of our fellow residents recover from the disaster.”
Volunteer groups put together plans on how to access various resources they and their beneficiaries will need for long-term recovery from disasters,” Gordon said. “They can also plan for future events to help people prepare. The key words are communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration.”
Whether it’s cleaning up debris, providing food, shelter and clothing, crisis counseling, replacement of lost or damaged appliances, or home repairs and reconstruction, the volunteer groups are critical in addressing ongoing needs, especially over the long haul, Gordon said. Much of the help is offered on an individual basis through what is known as “case management.”
Unmet needs are normally identified through interviews with individuals and families. Once it is determined what is necessary to help in the recoveries, case managers are assigned to work with each client and follow up as time goes on.
Many of the participants in the Logan group will also work with additional long-term recovery groups in other areas of West Virginia affected by the recent storms and flooding. These are currently being organized.
The contributions of these volunteers nicely echo Portia&rsquo...