Relief efforts get boost from organization
By the Advocate Editorial Board
Dec. 5, 2017 at 4:06 p.m.
Updated Dec. 6, 2017 at 6 a.m.
More than three months after Hurricane Harvey, many Victoria County officials have winded down their immediate response efforts. Emergency shelters have long since shuttered their doors and a final sweep to clear remaining storm debris has been planned.
But for many residents, Harvey's toll remains as present as their leaking roofs, destroyed belongings, mold-infested rooms and rapidly shrinking savings. The work to help and protect these storm survivors has shifted from emergency care to more long-term solutions.
That's where the Victoria County Long Term Recovery Group comes in.
Made up of a network of volunteers and community leaders, this group has done and continues to do a remarkable job of coordinating existing recovery efforts, facilitating new ones and overall ensuring that donations and services find their way to the people who need them most.
After the hurricane, immediate offers of aid poured into our area.
In the weeks after Harvey, the group that first formed as a VOAD, or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, shifted gears to become a long-term recovery group. This group is helping serve as a point of contact within our community with a focus on pooling resources from several local nonprofit agencies. Out-of-town donors have given funds to the group to distribute among our hardest hit residents.
Church groups, the Salvation Army, Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, Victoria County United Way are able to use the organizational structure provided by the LTRG to enact the full force of their giving spirit.
Because of this group's case management process, at least 11 families now have shelter, supplies and essential appliances to begin to rebuild their lives - and more are being recognized as in need each day.
"It's a long, slow process," Dolly Stokes, treasurer for the LTRG, said of the group's work ahead, "but at least we're moving."
More than immediate recovery needs, Stokes said, the LTRG sets up and maintains lists of contact information for volunteer and aid organizations so that Victoria County can stay prepared for when the next disaster strikes - hopefully far, far in the future.
So, what can be done to support the LTRG as it helps our area recover? Volunteers are critical, Stokes said. All sorts of skills can be useful in disaster response, whether you're handy with a hammer or more comfortable behind a computer. Communications play a key role in channeling aid, so people skills are particularly important. If this is something you can do, reach out to Chairman Mark Longoria. Recently, retired and current public officials and other skilled professionals in the community have volunteered their time to serve on committees. We commend their efforts. There are likely others who could lend a hand.
The city and county has taken an active role in helping this group accomplish its recovery goals. The county has lent a grant writer and city employees are looking at contracts to see if any landfill fees can be discounted.
We can rebuild and recover from Harvey, but only together as one.
This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.