DENVER – Volunteers who want to help the Colorado flood recovery efforts are being asked to look carefully before they leap. Do not just show up in disaster areas hoping to help out; go first to www.HelpColoradoNow.org.
The Colorado Office of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urge agencies and individuals to use this website to register what they have to donate and how many volunteers they can provide.
“Our goal is to coordinate and organize the many volunteer groups that are critical to helping their own communities come through a disaster,” said Robyn Knappe, Human Services Branch director for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “When un-authorized or un-registered volunteers just show up at a location, it often interrupts the organized flow and pre-planned assistance.”
Knappe explained that the Colorado Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), FEMA Corps, and authorized volunteer organizations look at these on-line offers and pull what’s needed now from this database to help those affected by the flooding. “This lets us grab from the website and deliver goods or volunteers to the folks that need it most,” she said.
Jennifer Poitras, the state’s Volunteer Coordinator Lead, said, “This was a huge disaster. There will be a need for donations and volunteers to work for many weeks, months and even years to help those hit hardest recover. Just don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an immediate reply about your donation,” she added. “This website registration is critical to helping us maintain a coordinated response for a long time to come.”
Knappe added that many new charities have registered with the authorized Colorado VOAD group lately, “often bringing their national affiliations to help. Citizens and volunteers have been extremely generous—an unprecedented response from citizens and groups statewide.”
As of mid-September, approximately 52 national and state VOADs had been a part of Colorado’s disaster response and recovery operations. In that time, just five of these agencies reported nearly 100,000 volunteer hours valued at more than $2 million. “It’s been a massive response from our existing volunteer agencies,” Knappe said. “And new charities joining the authorized VOAD network have made a huge difference in our outreach efforts.