In light of the recent Texas flooding, we want to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about one of our amazing programs: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery. In the wake of the flood, Volunteer Houston moved our website into disaster response mode, turning off a large portion of our functionality to focus on disaster volunteering. Additionally, we lead efforts with the Gulf Coast Regional VOAD (Volunteer Organization Active in Disaster), Points of Light, and the National Corporation for Community Service, to form next steps and collaborate with disaster related organizations around the region.
“We are the connecting factor for the community,” said Cameron Waldner, Volunteer Houston’s CEO. “While the flooding was terrible for a lot of individuals, it gave us a chance to put into action what we have been working on for the past few years, so that when the next disaster strikes, we will make corrections and improve upon our processes.”
During the last 18 months Volunteer Houston has taken critical steps to ensure resiliency of our community after a disaster. We have increased our capacity by adding two Community Emergency Preparedness Corps (CEPC) members to the Volunteer Houston staff. One of the major accomplishments of the CEPC members has been the development of a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) Manual. Volunteer Houston is contracted with Harris County and the City of Houston to host the Volunteer Reception Center where spontaneous, unaffiliated volunteers find opportunities to serve their community after a disaster. Unlike many other disaster volunteer programs, these volunteers are untrained individuals wanting to help their community in the wake of a disaster. We have shared the VRC Manual with other communities who have adapted it to their specific needs.
This was recently put to work during these horrific floods in Martindale, TX where volunteers logged over 1262 hours of work; having this tool help manage and measure volunteer service is huge for this community as they rely heavily on FEMA Dollar Match for volunteer hours.
“The VRC plan takes Volunteer Houston’s day-to-day operations, connecting volunteers to opportunities, and puts it into a physical location,” said Jason Menke, CEPC AmeriCorps member. “Volunteers are essential to everyday life for so many Houstonians. From providing meals through the Meals of Wheels program to clearing fallen debris, we have to ensure these volunteer positions are filled and tracked, especially in a time of disaster.”
While the floods have subsided, our work is never done. We need to raise additional funds for our disaster preparedness and recovery program. These funds will be used to create a mobile application, making it easier for volunteers to access our services on their smart devices, enhance our website and database, and buy additional supplies for our disaster recovery kits.
“Sustainable funding is essential to the disaster preparedness and response program,” said Cameron. “We are building processes that will help ensure the safety of our community.”