Monday, April 10, 2006

Live from Pearlington - April 10, 2006

It has long been a cherished idea to find a way to get all the volunteer groups working in Pearlington coordinated and on the same page. Our goal has always been to provide speedy help to the residents, avoid duplication of effort and to help focus visiting volunteers on the tasks at hand. That is why I created the Coalition of Disaster Relief Agencies (C.O.D.R.A.) in the first place.

That goal took a giant leap forward yesterday.

With respecting the autonomy of the various faith and agency groups in mind, we have created a system by which the needs (in various categories) of the entire town will be known and the activities of each group correlated with those needs. This will prevent groups from showing up to do work that may have already been done by another group, any duplication of effort and the provision of current information as to what is exactly needed where.

Laurie Spaschak is midway through a survey of the entire town, facilitated by volunteers from Americorps. This will be entered on a database and published weekly and disseminated to all parties. As work is completed, each group is asked to submit information as to what was accomplished and the database will be updated to reflect the current situation. Laurie will coordinate this with the help of Americorps volunteers, who will do the actual computer input.

This will, of course, require us all to cooperate and provide the appropriate information. We again reiterate the need for all visiting groups of volunteers, especially those who do not have regular representation on the ground, to check in with Laurie at the Recovery Center upon arrival. This is not an issue of control, as we thoroughly respect your right to do the work you are called to do. Rather, it is an issue of cooperation and the effective use and employment of resources that are thin enough at the best of times.

Brief Coordination Meetings are currently being held - and have been for some time - in Bunkhouse B (on the field behind the school) on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. All are invited. We have a sterling opportunity to move as one body and to get this job done in a way that may become the model for how non-government orgaizations can function smootly and effectively in a disaster situation. It will also bring a degree of professionalism to this huge project that may impress our supporters and encourage donations to our respective groups.

WE NEED YOUR HELP AND SUPPORT!

We are currently seeking the volunteer support of teams of Assessors, who are qualified to assess damage in the field and provide information as to what must be done at each home. We are currently thinking of teams of two who can provide a three week stint each, until the job is complete. We agree that there are certain tasks - like mucking out houses and removing debris and fallen trees - that provide as much psychological benefit to the residents as anything else. Yet, we do not have the resources to move much past that point until we are certain that the efforts we put into individual homes are warranted, in the context of local elevation laws and the assessed level of damage by the government, as well as the level of contribution by the homeowner.

We are not necessarily asking for home inspectors, architects or people who are trained to make those kinds of decisions. We need people who can size a house up and make a determination as to what labour can safely and wisely be put into a home that is being rebuilt from its damaged core. It is another matter completely when it comes time to look for the resources to begin actual re-construction and we are working on a plan to accomplish that as well. The information gathered by the Assessors will be used to determine what can realistically be done and those tasks would be published from the database for the various groups to work from.

If you can help, please contact me, Jon White. I will sort through the information and forward it concisely to Laurie, who already has an enormous amount on her plate. I know, I've been there. We are also inviting your comments and feedback, which can also be forwarding to me, and I will correlate it and send it on. Please address your comments to me at jonw@bconnex.net.

Thank you.

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And now....some great news from the ground in Pearlington.

Susie Sharp is set to move back into her home next week! Susie has been a selfless and generous member of this community for many years and there are many volunteers - including this one - whose stay in Pearlington has been made immeasurably better by her efforts. We love ya Susie and God bless you for all your have endured personally during this time. You deserve everything we could do for you!

Under the guidance of Jake Earle, a wonderful group of volunteers from Horizon Community Church in Cincinnati, OH are building a new laundomat beside the new showers in the field behind the school. Tom and Beverly Feie, their kids Amy, Jamie and Kevin; Chad, Ryan and others are doing an outstanding job on this much needed project.

Laurie Spaschak and Bob Putnam made an outstanding homemade lasagna dinner for the volunteers last night.

I would like to recognize all the groups working so hard in Pearlington. Please send me the information so I can publish it.

Keep plugging, keep loving and keep coming!
"Canada" Jon White

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