DENVER – In response to the severe storms, floods, mudslides and landslides in Colorado during September, 37 agencies collaborated to make the Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) in Longmont, Colorado a one-stop shop for survivors. The DRC opened on Sept. 18 and had volunteers from the very beginning.
Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is comprised of local, state, federal, non-profit, faith-based and private sector agencies that individually provide services for the needs of families impacted by disaster. None of the agencies is allowed to charge any type of fees.
Their no-fee services range from assistance with flood debris cleanup, home repairs, reconstruction, food distribution, counseling services, clothing, housing assistance and even the services of an acupuncturist.
Local agencies include volunteers such as:
- Christian Aid Ministries - provides free clean up and moving services
- Convoy of Hope - clears mud out of homes, clears basements, clears debris, and provides cleaning supplies
- Life Bridge Christian Church - offers volunteers for clean-up services
Jim Wall, city of Longmont chief information officer at the DRC, attributes the success to all the volunteers. There are “approximately 170 volunteers who come in each day and the majority are from the city of Longmont and surrounding counties,” said Wall. “Many have experienced firsthand losses as well. The majority of the volunteers come from local area churches of numerous denominations.
“We have no jurisdictional disputes here in the DRC because we are a team sharing a common goal of helping the customer,” said Wall.
“The work of volunteers contributes substantially to helping those impacted and our aim is to make this process as painless as possible by providing that extra touch because we all went through this,” he said.
Another member of this team is Edith Lovell, FEMA DRC manager. She also attributes the success of the DRC to the VOAD volunteer agencies.
Since the Longmont DRC opened, she said, “more than 3,621 applications have been submitted for assistance.
“This is a wonderful community. The people here volunteer to help one another, even those they do not know, in every way they can. This is something I have never seen before in my 13 years of FEMA service.”
Lovell tells of three Individual Assistance specialists who volunteered to attend a meeting with the Spanish speaking community. As a result, “we have been able to help a larger section of the Spanish speaking community.”
These volunteers are obviously a vital resource at the DRC because they each represent the face that brings comfort and reassurance to disaster survivors.