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7-13-16 NAD ACS Disaster Response Update From West Virginia
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“Team” is the best word to describe the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) approach in West Virginia, according to W. Derrick Lea, North American Division (NAD) ACS DR director and ACS associate director. Lea has traveled to flooded regions several times this July, on the heels of a busy June in Orlando, Florida.
 
The flooding began on June 22 — just a few days later President Barack Obama issued a major disaster declaration in the state. According to a July 13, 2016, release from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), disaster assistance grants approved for homeowners and renters affected by last month’s severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides have reached more than $28 million. 

 
The Baptistes, an Adventist family from West Virginia, allowed their dump truck to be used to haul away wet furniture and other debris. Here, it is being loaded by National Guardsmen.
Photo provided by W. Derrick Lea

 
 

The release states that the total includes more than $24.2 million in housing assistance and more than $4.3 million in other needs assistance. More than 6,900 households and businesses have registered with FEMA, as of July 13.
 
In order to reach the needs of the West Virginia communities in recovery, Lea reports that ACS DR representatives are working “in close partnership with FEMA and the Red Cross.” He says that those working in this environment, including ACS crisis care (counseling), warehouse and clean up volunteers “seem to develop a closeness that makes for a more effective rendering of service for those in need.”
 
Evidence of this occurred on July 5, when a Red Cross worker noticed a crisis care worker speaking with a number of shelter residents.  The crisis care worker’s demeanor and “inviting manner” made such an impression that he was asked to accompany Red Cross personnel into the community to help gather information on the various needs that were being missed through the regular reporting mechanisms.
 
A steady stream of donations throughout the first week of July have almost completely filled the ACS-run warehouse in Belle, Virginia. “Though the doors officially should close at 7 p.m., our team has stayed at least until 8 p.m. each evening to handle late deliveries,” says Lea. “The dedication shown by the entire group is inspiring — they are to be commended for their dedication to helping those in crisis.” 

 
Some of the supplies located in the Belle, West Virginia, warehouse that is being managed by ACS
Photo provided by W. Derrick Lea

 
 

On July 5, ACS DR representatives also met in Left Hand, where a disaster resource center had been set up by FEMA and the Red Cross. Trained ACS volunteers were asked by both entities if they could serve as providers to those being housed in the shelter and any residents who came to the center for assistance.  Says Lea, “The center itself is a hub of activity and set up to help individuals who have lost their valuables.” Needed items such as toiletries, bleach, and water have been available for those affected by the floods. 
 
Food was the needed resource provided the day after the floods began.  A week later, the need shifted to helping community members clean out their homes. “Just imagine the work required — removing wet drywall, rugs, flooring, appliances, etc.,” says Lea. “The church membership along with the group Youth for Jesus teamed up to begin this task.”
 
Again, partnerships and team played a roll with ACS working with FEMA to provide the youth volunteers with 20 sets of much-needed gloves and dust masks for the workers.  
 
Help for West Virginia has come from ACS leaders across the Columbia Union, with Allegheny East and Mountain View conferences actively working with the disaster response and recovery team, and Potomac and Chesapeake conferences beginning to aid efforts. And South Central Conference has been a significant contributor from the start, with volunteers assisting in several facets of the response. 

 
This thrift store, owned by an Adventist family, was covered by 4 feet of water. Ruined items are awaiting haul away.
Photo provided by W. Derrick Lea
 
 

“We hope to continue to identify ways ACS can be of service to both the church in Rainelle and those who live in the affected area, now and in the long-term,” Lea says. He believes the ACS crisis care team will be able work with Your Best Pathway to Health patients to “deliver spiritual care to those that come for services in the clinic.” The free health clinic began this morning, July 13, in Beckley.
 
The goal is for the local community to ultimately take over these tasks soon, says Lea, with NAD ACS DR serving in a support role. Trained volunteers, working together, have the greatest opportunity for success when a disaster strikes.
 
“Though disasters will increase in number and severity in the future and no one organization can expect to fill every need, I trust ACS Disaster Response can master focused skills that position us to be one of the most effective teams within the disaster response community,” says Lea. 
 

North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600 USA
Telephone: 301-680-6400
Fax: 301-680-6464
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