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‘Community of resources’

Network developed quickly to provide aid after flooding

Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 9:08 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Peggy Hanna Photo for the Morris Daily Herald)
Once area residents were rescued from their flooded homes like the apartments in Ravine Woods by first responders, many did not know where to go for additional assistance. Grundy County officials worked with representatives of several local non-government agencies and churches in order to get help to the flood victims who needed it.

The April 18 flood left some families homeless, possessions ruined and in need of food and clothing.

After the first responders saved their lives, the Grundy County administration was inundated with phone calls for help on what to do next.

“We had so many calls coming in, the phone was ringing off the hook,” said County Administrator Chris Wittkamp. “We didn’t know who to outsource all of them too.”

So the county reached out to area churches, non-profit organizations and other non-government agencies to meet and find out who could do what for these individuals in need.

The county, United Way of Grundy County, Kendall-Grundy Community Action and representatives of area churches from Minooka, Channahon and Morris gathered shortly after the flood to gather resources for these affected families, said Ron Severson, Grundy County Board chairman.

“The whole thing is to get everybody in the county working together so when we have a real problem, we can put a lot of bodies there,” said Severson.

“The problem is a lot of people want to help, but they don’t know how to or what’s really needed,” he said. “This gives us a focus.”

From there, a resource list was made, and displaced families were put in contact with these organizations for specific needs. The group, with United Way as one of the resource leaders, has and continues to coordinate efforts.

The organizations include Operation Flood Them With Love, which based itself out of the Quality Inn in Morris, collecting clothing and helping with room costs for displaced families.

Also among the resources are Channahon and Minooka churches, which worked together last weekend to organize a clean-up at Shady Oaks trailer park, where numerous trailers were flooded to their windows, ruining everything in these homes, including appliances; and We Care, Operation St. Nick and the Community Foundation of Grundy County, which created mini grants giving approved families $500 to $1,000 in rent or mortgage payments or other needs.

We Care is supplying its $25,000 in federal funding from its Emergency Food and Shelter Program. This money is more restricted and based on income, but for those who apply that make a higher income than We Care usually assists with, the funding from St. Nick and the Community Foundation is utilized.

We Care has given out 19 grants so far, totaling more than $16,000, and still has seven more applications coming in, said Joe Schmitz, founder and president of Operation St. Nick.

Those applicants who could not qualify for the We Care funding were directed to St. Nick and the foundation. They have provided more than $23,000 in funding to 35 families, said Schmitz. And they are waiting to hear back from five more families who have been displaced.

Families with children have received $800 to $1,300, while for those without children the average has been about $500, he said. In some cases they are paying mortgage or rent payments to free up funds for clean-up efforts, while for others its been gift certificates for food, clothing or new appliances.

Many of the applicants have been from Shady Oaks in Minooka.

“I toured Shady Oaks, and that street by the creek, it’s just devastating,” said Schmitz. “My heart aches for them.”

Applications for the mini grants are still being accepted. Applications can be picked up from We Care, 520 W. Illinois Ave., any Standard Bank in Grundy County, and online through the Community Foundation at www.cfgrundycounty.com.

The United Way is continuing to coordinate volunteers and take donations, said Karen Nall, United Way executive director.

Continuous needs for flood victims are laundry soap and cleaning supplies, as families try to put their homes back together. In addition, the United Way is looking for businesses willing to do in-kind donations to help these families check to see if their homes are inhabitable.

Electricians, plumbers, heating and air conditioning, earth movers, and landscapers willing to donate their skills to help these families get back into their homes would be greatly appreciated, said Nall.

“These people cannot move back into their homes unless they know their water heater or furnace is working properly and not a hazard,” said Nall.

To assist with these needs or to donate, call United Way at (815) 942-4430.

LONG-TERM EFFORT

This group of organizations continues to meet and will continue to for the long term. The next meeting is at 4 p.m. Monday, May 20, at the county administration building. Any organization looking to help with the current flooding recovery or for future needs is invited.

The Quality Inn still has seven families from the Morris and Minooka area staying at the hotel from Shady Oaks, Tabler and Cemetery Road areas, said Nall.  And clean-up in these areas will be an ongoing project for quite some time.

“This county has been great, everyone in it has stood up to help with the flood and we want to keep the spirit going,” said Severson.

When an emergency such as the April 18 flood occurs, the immediate need is rescue response. The police, fire departments, emergency management agency and other first responders need to be continuously doing evacuations and saving lives.

While saving lives, they cannot be worrying about the aftermath, such as where to send displaced families, said Nall.

The resources are there and the county stepped up to coordinate them, but a permanent system needs to be put in place in case of future disasters, she said.

Everyone’s hope is once the county has fully recovered from this flood, this gathering of the minds can continue for the long term.

The idea is to keep this group growing and to have it in place so if another disaster were to happen in the future, it will take one call to get resources moving, said Nall.

“This is a great community of resources,” she said.

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