ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Many survivors affected by the spring floods are now back in warm, safe and familiar surroundings thanks to the many volunteer groups who contributed their time and skills to help survivors return home.
Much of the 13,000 volunteer hours—the equivalent of more than six average work years—has been to repair and rebuild homes so that survivors can move back in. These hours are the result of volunteer groups traveling to Alaska from around the country after ice jams this spring damaged homes in the Alaskan bush communities of Alakanuk, Circle, Eagle, Emmonak, Fort Yukon, Galena, Hughes and Tok.
More than 100 home repairs or rebuilds have been completed in affected communities. Of the repairs, 56 were completed in the hardest hit community of Galena. Volunteers groups have contributed to the bulk of this effort since arriving in early August. The repairs have made damaged homes habitable again for survivors so they can sustain the winter in communities where temperatures can get as low as 50 degrees below zero.
“It would have been impossible to have gotten this many home repairs completed in this amount of time were it not for the volunteers,” said State Coordinating Officer Bryan Fisher. “They selflessly spent long periods far away from their families and put in extraordinary hours to help total strangers. Volunteers are a huge reason why many spring flood survivors can be back in their own home and that means a lot to Alaska.”
More than 120 volunteers from United Methodists Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), Disciples of Christ, Mennonite Disaster Services, World Renew and Arizona Southern Baptists have helped repair, rebuild, muck out and gut homes in Circle, Fort Yukon, Galena and Hughes. Their contributions included repairing and constructing homes as well as skilled labor such as plumbing and electrical work. The Galena Bible Church also contributed by providing shelter to volunteers who came to its hard hit community.
Voluntary agency liaisons with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worked with UMVIM and other participating groups to coordinate and fund their travel to affected communities that needed help. FEMA also paid for building materials. Additionally, the State of Alaska assembled responder camps in Galena to house volunteers.
“FEMA and our state partner play important roles in disaster recovery, but the volunteers make a big difference, too,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph Diemont. “Nearly all the damaged homes that were repaired or rebuilt are because of them. The safety of survivors is our priority whenever responding to a disaster and all the volunteer groups helped us immensely in that mission by getting them back home for the winter.”
Volunteers will continue repair and rebuild work on homes in the spring.