Long Term Recovery Group

Chairman Mark Longoria leads a meeting of the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group. The group meets twice a month and is focused on assisting Hurricane Harvey survivors.

The Rev. Glen Dry wants the community to be ready for the next disaster.

He told members of the Victoria County Long-Term Recovery Group at a meeting Friday that he is forming a local group focused on preparing long before a disaster happens with ongoing training and planning.

Community Organizations Active in Disaster, or COAD, should be ready for the next hurricane, explosion, fire, active-shooter situation or flood.

“We want to be able to bring as much calmness to the community (as possible) in the midst of a disaster,” he said.

In the days immediately after Hurricane Harvey, people looked for a clearinghouse that could lead them in the right direction to find resources. But the group emergency officials tasked with this responsibility Aug. 26 had been inactive for years. The group, called Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOAD, was not ready to coordinate relief efforts, according to a Victoria Advocate investigation.

Many cities nationwide have a community-led group ready to stand up in case of a disaster.

Dry said the group already has started collaborating with local officials to review and update the emergency management plan.

Dry is president of Experience Excellence – a nonprofit, faith-based organization – and founding pastor of Sportsman’s Church in Victoria.

“The best thing that’s happening is that it made us all aware that to communicate is our best asset,” he said. “Hopefully, together we’re better.”

The goal is to have relationships in place and agreements with agencies set up, he said.

The pastor is inviting the public to the group’s second lunch-and-learn event noon June 20 at the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission. Lunch will be served, and organizations can find out how to help for the next disaster. The COAD group renamed the VOAD’s Facebook page and is working on a website.

Mark Longoria, chairman of the long-term recovery group, said he was eager to work hand in hand with Dry’s group.

The recovery group will likely go dormant in a few years when Victoria has recovered from Harvey. But for now, Longoria’s group is still hard at work. The group is in the process of moving into an office downtown at 207 N. Glass St. owned by First Baptist Church.

During the meeting, Longoria thanked members for their hard work during the past nine months.

Since then, the group has worked with hundreds of families with immediate needs and at least 166 households with funding through its unmet needs committee. Case managers present to the committee the cases of families in need of assistance to pay for storm-related repairs, appliance replacements and wheelchair ramps.

“It’s a great blessing right now, being able to help so many families get back into their homes,” he said.

Longoria estimates there could be about 2,500 families still waiting for help in the recovery process.

Dolly Stokes, the group’s treasurer and secretary, said five organizations consistently contribute to the fund, but the unmet needs committee needs help from other churches and groups in Victoria.

“We need more funders at the table,” she said.

The Catholic Diocese of Victoria was awarded a long-term disaster recovery grant of $2.5 million by Catholic Charities USA from funds received through the second collection offered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

These funds will be used to assist survivors and community recovery efforts within a 10-county area, said CFO Tony Martinez.

In other news, the Mennonite Disaster Service plans to leave Bloomington for about a month Aug. 1. During its time off, other organizations, such as Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, will likely need to fill in by doing recovery work in the county.

Habitat plans to bring 280 volunteers to work on 15 roofs for four days.

Phyllis Hamilton, who leads Texans Recovering Together by the Region 3 Education Service Center, said that since February her team of crisis counseling outreach workers has assisted 1,800 people in the region.

Just about every week, she told the group, they find a hurricane survivor, usually elderly and living in a rural area, who didn’t know what kinds of services were available to them.

As news of this year’s hurricane season outlook is shared, there may be a stronger reaction than usual, warned Lane Johnson, chairman of the crisis counseling and spiritual care committee and chief clinical officer of Gulf Bend Center.

“This is stressful work,” he told the group. “Don’t hesitate to reach out.”

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Laura Garcia reports on health and nonprofits for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at lgarcia@vicad.com or 361-580-6585.

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Features Editor

Laura has covered health and nonprofits in the Crossroads since 2014. She's also mom to a toddler, loves journalism conferences and is a big fan of sci-fi and crime TV.

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