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Local Volunteers Get Disaster Response Advice

Brian Kelly
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Getty/Julie Denesha

Getty/Julie Denesha

WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. (KMOX)-Some of those who responded to the many disasters in Missouri over the past year, including the Joplin tornado, were in St. Louis Friday, advising faith-based and volunteer organizations on how they can help in times of need.

It was one of six workshops being held statewide, by the Missouri Governor’s Faith-Based and Community Service Partnership for Disaster Recovery.

Americorp St. Louis Operations Coordinator Quinn Gardner says that for faith-based organizations, it starts with gathering information, “Who in your congregation can do what? What skills they have, what resources they have and what they’re willing to do?”

Gardner says the organizations also have to know who to contact, so their efforts are coordinated, “You really want to avoid that self-deployment… We talk a lot about the wave of volunteers and unsolicited goods that show up after disasters as the ‘second wave of a disaster’ because it takes so much coordination to make that happen and lot of times that coordination takes the focus off life/safety issues. So a lot of the messaging today is train, be ready for it and then tie into systems so that when you show up it’s in an organized coordinated way and you’re not stressing out a system that’s already being stressed out.”

Pastor Aaron Brown, who’s St. Paul’s United Methodist Church was damaged by the Joplin tornado, says one thing volunteers need to bring with them is patience, “A lot of people want very glamorous projects when they come, ‘I want to build a house, I want to tear a house down.’ Those are great projects and they’re going to be needed for a very long time but sometimes we can’t always connect people into those glamorous projects.”

Brown says, “It might be that they’re doing little things, maybe hanging fliers on doors about FEMA, SEMA or whatever else. Those things are not glamorous jobs but they’ve got to be done.”

Brown says he knows from personal experience, that volunteers at disaster scenes do more for the victims, then they realize, “People arrive and you see that van come from somewhere and folks pour out of it and say ‘we’re here to help’ and it makes you feel so good. You say, ‘thank you, you care,  you’re here and you love us without even knowing us””

 

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