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Organizations coordinate disaster response

By Sonny Long
Aug. 23, 2013 at 3:23 a.m.
Updated Aug. 24, 2013 at 3:24 a.m.

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VICTORIA VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS ACTIVE IN DISASTER

The organizations that make up the Victoria VOAD. September is National Preparedness Month.

• Golden Crescent Area Information Center (211)

• Crossroads Chapter of the American Red Cross

• Salvation Army

• Victoria County Interfaith Disaster Response

• Food Bank of the Golden Crescent

• Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity

• Victoria Health Department

• Citizens Hospital

• Gulf Bend Center

• Mid-Coast Family Services

• Victoria Independent School District

• Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid

• Community Action Committee

• Victoria Chamber of Commerce

• Victoria Animal Issues Committee

SOURCE: John Johnston, VOAD

After the 1998 flood that struck Victoria and other areas of the Crossroads, the need for an organized disaster volunteer and relief effort became apparent to John Johnston.

Johnston, volunteering with the Texas Baptist Men serving meals to flood victims in the First Baptist Church parking lot in Victoria, saw a caravan pull up.

"There was an 18-wheeler, a couple of SUVs pulling trailers, cars," Johnston recalled.

A man from the Samaritan's Purse convoy approached Johnston and asked what they could do to help.

"I didn't have an answer," Johnston said.

The caravan eventually moved down river to Goliad.

"Goliad needed help, too. We all did. But I couldn't help but wonder how often that happens. We lost resources."

Johnston realized that Victoria is blessed with a lot of nonprofit organizations and other groups that specialize in certain areas.

"I thought, why not get a group together to coordinate existing resources, not overlap services and grow to address the need," said Johnston, a development engineer and flood plain administrator with the city of Victoria.

More than a dozen Victoria nonprofit agencies, health organizations and governmental entities make up the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.

Using the national VOAD as a framework, the Victoria organization has a plan in place for local volunteer organization and donations management.

"It creates a mechanism for individuals to train, learn and/or become equipped for future events," said Jeb Lacey, Victoria County Emergency Management coordinator.

"Our communities are full of people with unique skills that are valuable during emergencies and disasters that might not otherwise be needed by government day to day," said Lacey.

"VOAD provides us with a way to put these skilled individuals to work when needed in an organized manner."

Linda May with the Red Cross agreed.

"It's critical so we know what each other is doing at all times, and we're not overlapping services," she said.

"It's a very positive thing."

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