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10-10-13 Disaster Recovery Center Aids Colorado Flood Survivors
|Volunteers assist with sorting and organizing donated goods [Photo by Nancy Lamoreoux]
When widespread flooding in Colorado severely damaged an estimated 1900 homes and affected more than 32,000 people, Adventist Community Services (ACS) partnered with other community agencies to establish a Disaster Recovery Center in Loveland, CO.
Cathy Kissner, Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Community Services Director and State of Colorado Emergency Donation Manager, got the call to action on September 14 and arrived in Loveland the next day. She, along with volunteers, set up the center in an empty factory building managed by Cumberland Western which Loveland city managers had made arrangements to use.
Volunteers sorted donations, categorized goods and created displays on tables and racks. Within three days, on September 18, a huge store-like center had sprung up with donations organized by category and complete with shopping carts from Home Depot. The Recovery Center will stay open until no longer needed.
The goods cost nothing for the clients. People affected by the flood take a cart, fill it with needed food, clothes, household goods, tools and furniture. Check-out people tally the number of goods in each category.
Choice is important. “People impacted by the event have lost the capacity to make normal choices. They come in uptight, not sure what to expect,” Kissner states. “By coming here and shopping, they regain some of their normalcy. This is not a hand-out; this is a hand up.” Making the decisions about what they need to recover helps clients establish a new normal.
Many people never thought they would be in this position and would never ask for government assistance. “This is humbling,” says one. “But thank you for what you are doing.”
“We’ve always been on the giving end,” states another. “Thank you. We will re-donate someday.”
Kissner has coordinated recovery centers for seven disasters thus far including this one. She dashes from place to place talking with people from other relief agencies, organizing who will do what and where to put incoming supplies, directing arrangement of tables for efficiency and attractiveness and making sure that she is coordinating well with the many other agencies who have responded to the disaster.
Signing clients in with a numbering system and checking addresses verifies those who were directly impacted by the flooding and helps prevent fraud, thus preserving the intent of the donors.
Along with numerous volunteers from the community, local Seventh-day Adventist pastors have come to assist clients, to listen to their stories and to pray with them when they want. “These people are hurting, and they are being loved,” one pastor stated.
“That’s what Christ has done for us,” Kissner says. “He has seen me filthy in sin. He stands me up and walks with me through recovery. We are doing ministry.”
Among the three major disaster responding agencies, ACS has developed a reputation as honest, caring and trustworthy. Partnering with other local agencies breaks down barriers as all agencies and volunteers focus on one objective—to help the people return to normal. Volunteers include Mormons, Baptists, people from the community who heard of the need for volunteers, Civil Air Patrol cadets, the Big Thompson Volley Ball team, the Navy recruiter and his recruits and others. People show respect for each other. One person from another volunteer organization commented, “We’ve never had anyone accept us the way you have.”
Donations have come from many local people, businesses and from people across the country. One woman who went through Hurricane Sandy knows what it’s like. She heard an interview on the news in which a woman from one of the devastated towns told how a stranger had given her a clean pair of socks and how something so simple had made a difference in her day.
“That interview touched my heart,” the donor wrote. “It’s the little things in life that we sometimes take for granted, a nice hot cup of tea on a chilly morning, being able to flick a switch and have light, a flushing toilet, a nice, clean pair of socks to keep your feet warm…the list could go on! That’s when I started thinking. Socks. Socks for Survivors!”
She talked to friends, middle-class people like herself who can’t afford to take off work to donate physical labor even though they’d like to help out. They put together a box of socks. They “just wanted to help out in some small way…because it’s the little things in life…like a nice, warm pair of socks!”
What will happen to the store-like recovery center when people have had their needs met? Adventist Community Services will store some of the items for the next disaster. Local legitimate non-profit agencies will be able to take what they can use. The former factory, now former recovery store will again be an available big building managed by Cumberland Western.
By Aletha Gruzensky