March 8, 2019 10:31:17 AM
Volunteer coordinators, religious leaders and other community leaders will soon have the opportunity to join a local committee directing recovery efforts in the wake of the Feb. 23 tornado and subsequent flooding.
Hubert Yates, board president of the Mississippi chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, presented about Community-Based Recovery Committees at the Lowndes County E-911 office Thursday and advised volunteer and religious agencies in the county and city to start one of their own.
The CBRC would be registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, which is required to be in place to receive government funding and other grants for recovery efforts.
"Any money that you receive is going to be earmarked for very specific things, and you have to use them for very specific things," he said. "So members of that committee need to hold onto that money and practically allocate it. ... If you just hand it out (to residents), $1,000 here, $500 there, you'll run out of money and have very little to show for it."
The CBRC would also coordinate volunteers and manage recovery efforts, including home repairs and rebuilding, on a long-term basis. Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director Cindy Lawrence said that would be another beneficial aspect of putting together the CBRC.
"I'm not going to be a member," she said. "But I will absolutely work with (the CBRC). I think it's a really good way of making sure we're managing our resources wisely, especially since the Red Cross, MEMA, they can't stay forever."
The CBRC will appoint volunteer members to one of several subcommittees, which will focus on everything from managing state and federal funds, deciding how they are best used, coordinating volunteers, writing grants for additional recovery efforts, and helping those affected with long- and short-term needs.
"We're going to need people of every kind of ability in this committee," Yates said. "Social workers, construction workers, case managers, volunteers. We need it all."
Lawrence and MEMA will be collecting interest forms from local religious leaders, volunteer coordinators and other individuals with relevant experience who want to volunteer on the CBRC. Lawrence does not yet know when the CBRC will be incorporated as a nonprofit, or when it will meet.
Colin Krieger, a Columbus-based Realtor who attended Thursday's meeting, said he plans to participate on the committee in some way, and hopes that people other than paid volunteer coordinators decide to participate.
"A few of us in the room had no idea what was coming in terms of the amount of damage or why we were there talking about a committee," he said. "But I think over the next six to eight weeks, you'll see an executive board that will be two-thirds volunteer coordinators and other groups and one-third people in the public sector."
Krieger added that social workers have already reached out to him asking how they can volunteer their services through the CBRC.
There's an additional reason for the formation of the CBRC that goes above and beyond financial management, but is still vital to receiving recovery funds.
"State and federal governments like to see local effort," Yates said. "They'll be more inclined to bring in assistance if they see local organizations already on the ground doing the work."
Krieger agreed, saying he believes Columbus will benefit from having a central organization where people can turn for help.
"The disaster relief center at the Trotter won't be there forever," he said. "And people still need to know where to go. Our job is to create the foundation for that to happen."
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