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Community groups focusing on long-term disaster recovery

The tornado's aftermath is shown in East Bernstadt, Ky. Photo by London Sentinel-Echo

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 25, 2012) — Less than a month after the tornadoes and strong storms of Feb. 29 through March 3, citizens in disaster-designated Kentucky counties already had come together to work on the recovery of their communities.

Citizens in 10 Kentucky counties affected by the disaster have formed long-term recovery groups. Three other counties are getting close to forming their group.

Long-term recovery groups are in place in Johnson, Lawrence, Martin, Magoffin and Morgan counties. Campbell, Grant, Kenton and Pendleton counties have formed the Northern Kentucky LTRG.  Menifee, Laurel and Wolfe counties have emerging long-term recovery groups.

The Kentucky Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters organization has spearheaded their development with an assist from Kentucky Emergency Management and The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Voluntary Agency Liaison group.

“All disasters are local and communities are challenged to accept responsibility for their local recovery,” said Mary Anna Speller, Kentucky VOAD president. “In other words, it’s us, the local leaders who do the work of assisting disaster survivors for the long haul.”

Kentucky VOAD coordinates with voluntary agencies and organizations in the aftermath of a disaster providing contributions, both monetary and voluntary, maximizing resources and serving needs.

FEMA’s VALs build relationships among federal, state and tribal governments and voluntary, faith-based and community organizations by reporting to and from FEMA and other government agencies on programs of voluntary organizations active during disasters.

KYEM, Kentucky VOAD and FEMA work with committees to bring together community partners. They share resources and collaborate on identifying unmet needs in the communities to avoid duplication of effort.

While the state and FEMA may not be able to meet every need of those who suffered damage and devastation in a disaster, this is the value of long-term recovery groups. FEMA’s role is one factor in recovery. Voluntary agencies are another.  VALs contribute to the effort by encouraging and supporting Kentucky VOAD to identify voluntary efforts and contributions to serve as many unmet needs as possible.

Some of those who have unmet needs include people who registered for federal disaster assistance and received funds to begin rebuilding, but not enough to complete the job. “For example, they may have materials for rebuilding, but need volunteer hands to work,” Remaly-Netter said.

“We also have people with needs who don’t qualify for federal assistance for one reason or another,” she said. “This is why it is so important for VOAD and VALs to work together to form recovery teams across the Commonwealth,” she said. “The partnership fills the void.”

For more information, visit www.KYVOAD.org.