HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Community leaders from areas hit hard by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee met in Sayre on Saturday, April 27, 2013 to discuss best practices, challenges and objectives for moving forward as their towns continue to rebuild. The collaboration is an initiative to keep local organizations strong and growing in the direction of continued recovery.
The four-hour-long meeting was hosted by Futurescapes. The Group is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that grew out of the Rebuild Athens Steering Committee, which was established to develop a long-term community recovery plan after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. Futurescapes was formed in 2012.
"As our long-term recovery group moves beyond the first year of operation, we are seeking a partnership with other volunteers in communities rebuilding after the 2011 flooding. On Saturday, we gained insights on some specific challenges that communities are facing. By sharing our combined experiences, we hope participants came away from the conference with renewed energy and armed with specific information and resources to help them move forward in their recovery process,” said Linda Spagnoli, a Futurescapes board member.
Spagnoli joined 19 other volunteers, as well as county and Commonwealth emergency managers in the roundtable-style discussion. The conversation was moderated by Community Recovery Specialist SheaBrianna Christilaw with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“While all of you were impacted at the same time by the same storm, your roads to recovery have been very different,” Christilaw said. “Some of you are in the process of completing long-term recovery plans, while others published plans as long as one year ago.”
Many of the groups are in the process of securing tax exemption status from the Internal Revenue Service, a designation that will substantially augment their ability to secure further recovery funding.
“We are working to acquire tax exempt status,” said Shickshinny Forward President Brian Phillips.
From new biking and hiking trails that will help areas regain their recreational resources to websites that will boost communication channels, each community is striving to accomplish projects. In many cases, funding will be required. The group highlighted the need for building and developing strong local partnerships.
In West Pittston, volunteers are helping with the development of a website for West Pittston Tomorrow, a nonprofit group that residents established to help rebuild.
“Right now, we are in the process of deciding how to format information and what information should be included,” said West Pittston Tomorrow President Judy Aita.
Organizations from both sides of the New York and Pennsylvania state borders are among the communities participating in the collaboration, which includes participants from Athens, Shickshinny and West Pittston in Pennsylvania and Nichols, Owego and Tioga in New York.
The following organizations were also represented at the meeting: Ashburn Advisors, the Bradford County Emergency Management Agency, the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, and the Tioga (N.Y.) County Emergency Management Agency and the Tioga (N.Y.) County Planning Department.
“These communities are working together to share their successes, build a network of peers, and brainstorm solutions to common challenges,” Christilaw said.
Futurescapes is currently analyzing feedback to strategize the next steps that should be taken to continue the collaborative approach. Ideas about locations and times of the next in-person meeting with community leaders will be planned based on information captured in survey results.
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. FEMA Region III’s jurisdiction includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Stay informed of FEMA’s activities online: videos and podcasts are available at http://www.fema.gov/medialibrary and www.youtube.com/fema. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/femaregion3.