The many faces – and faiths – of the flood volunteersThe list of national and regional organizations currently volunteering with local flood relief efforts reads like a church directory.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
The list of national and regional organizations currently volunteering with local flood relief efforts reads like a church directory. The Adventist Community Services is in charge of the warehouse of goods located at the Cloquet Armory. NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster specializes in disinfecting flooded homes. Samaritan’s Purse and Catholic United Response is helping in Moose Lake, while the Christian Disaster Response volunteers – who are Mennonites from Barron, Wis. ¬– have worked long days in Carlton County the past two weekends.
And Pastor Mike Stevens of the Good Hope Assembly of God in Cloquet, well, he’s been busy evaluating flooded homes, leading crews of volunteers out to muck out basements, clean flooded homes, care for devastated homeowners and more.
“Without Pastor Mike we’d be in big trouble in northern Carlton County,” said Dave Lee, director of public health and human services for Carlton County, who’s been working closely with Stevens since a few days after the flood. “He’s kind of taken the bull by the horns and basically trained everyone, worked with unaffiliated volunteers, whatever needs to be done.”
Volunteers from other local churches – Zion Lutheran and St. Matthew’s, among others – are also helping victims of the flood, but Stevens has experience with other disasters that many local volunteers lack. He went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; Galveston, Texas, after Hurricane Ike; Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after the flood there; and Joplin, Mo., after the last year’s tornado.
“I guess this is my fifth disaster,” Stevens said.
Lee said folks who think the post-flood cleanup must be nearing completion are mistaken. Rather, he said, the county is moving into a long-term recovery phase.
Volunteers will continue to be needed for months into the future, maybe even a year or two. Having the different religious volunteer groups arrive has been helpful for at least two reasons: First, because they are experienced with disaster relief and come here to volunteer for a specific period of time. Second, because they provide local volunteers with some relief.
Lee said it takes time for the national organizations to mobilize, however, which is why so many have been arriving over the past week or two.
“When the locals get overwhelmed, they come in and help us,” he said.
Make no mistake, however, local volunteers – religious or not – are still needed. Work ramps up Thursdays through Saturdays, and people willing to spend part of their days helping homeowners affected by the flood are asked to either call 211 or directly dial Carlton County Volunteer Services at 218-879-9238. The sign-up process is short, but needed so organizers can match skills to needs and track volunteer hours for federal and state aid programs.