Volunteers needed for new disaster recovery committee

Published 10:00 pm Monday, April 23, 2018

Local organizers hope to assemble a group of at least 20 to 25 volunteers to help the community after disasters.

Freeborn County Disaster Recovery Committee will host training to establish a volunteer group, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, at 1 p.m. May 6 at First Lutheran Church. Such organizations throughout the state have reportedly conducted rebuilding and home remediation work.

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“Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters are being deployed across the nation in many other kinds of disaster events, so if we have future issues that we need to respond to as a community, we really wanted to focus on building up a local response,” said Ann Austin, director of United Way of Freeborn County.

Denise Tipton, Community Resource Center volunteer and outreach coordinator, said having a local volunteer team would quicken the recovery process because of their proximity to the disaster.

Some local residents are reportedly still cleaning their homes nearly two years after fall 2016 flooding.

“It’s important that we have it here,” she said.

“We can’t expect these groups from the outside to come in and help us all the time,” Austin said. “We can really do a better job of helping (ourselves).”

Additional training beyond the initial session is expected. The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration is paying for Tipton’s full-time outreach work.

“We’re really trying to get a lot of capacity built this year while we have those funds and Denise in her capacity,” Austin said.

Organizers said people should be motivated to volunteer out of concern for the community.

“Disasters happen,” Tipton said. “You don’t want to watch your neighbor suffer. Your neighbors become your friends and people in the community. You don’t want to watch people suffer. It affects you, too. If your neighbor is living with mold and mildew, eventually that’s going to affect you, too.”

Austin said the volunteer group should help to build long-term housing sustainability, adding the community has a relatively high number of senior citizens and children.

“It really is a health concern for our community and our neighbors,” she said.

First Lutheran has reportedly committed to having a trailer for the group.

Provenio Consulting owner and volunteer Brad Kramer is expected to oversee flood response training.

“We’re really lucky to have him on board to help us out,” Tipton said.

Training material is expected to include best practices through Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Administration and Minnesota Housing Financing Agency.

“If we have local response groups, we will be more likely to get assistance from these groups across the state,” Austin said.

Austin said the community has faced an increase in flooding in recent years, adding most people do not have flood insurance.

“If we can get things cleaned out sooner rather than later, then people can get their lives situated again,” she said. “It really isn’t something that we have to worry or stress about, we just have to have a better plan of action.”

“It really is all about neighbors helping neighbors,” Tipton said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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