By Daniel Brunty
The Winston County Journal
With Winston County still in the recovery process after the April 28 storms, many residents are seeing signs of progress around the
affected areas. Whether it is yards that have been cleaned of debris, someone receiving repairs to their home, or even better a family being able to move back into their home, the progress is moving at a steady pace.
Assisting with most of this progress is the organization ‘WinstonStrong’, which has helped residents take the initial steps towards recovery. To help the community as well as the members of ‘WinstonStrong’ share ideas as well as keep each other updated, the organization has decided to hold a weekly meeting which will allow for this. The organization’s most recent meeting was held at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Louisville in Louisville at 2:30 p.m.
The meeting began with opening remarks from ‘WinstonStrong’ Chairman Robert Taylor. After Taylor introduced the members of the Executive Board and the Sub-Committee Chairs of the organization, he thanked the group for what they had accomplished in such short time and reminded them that they still had a long way to go in the recovery process.
Taylor then asked Executive Director Mike Dowd to address the members and all attending. Dowd began by mentioning that the organization is just now getting into the recovery and rebuilding stage. He also informed everyone that Mennonite Disaster Service is helping to designate more people have their houses constructed. “The bottom line is the process is moving,” Dowd said. “We are moving forward. Things are being done. Houses are being repaired. We are having cases being brought before the Fund Distribution Committee and they are distributing funds. We are starting to use this money to help get people back in to their homes. That is what this is about.”
Dowd informed everyone that this is a two-year process, and that ‘WinstonStrong’ is here for the long haul. He also stated that they did not have a Disaster Relief Fund, but they have slightly over $300,000. “Now to me, that is a lot of money,” Dowd said. “But to try and rebuild a community, it’s nothing but a drop in the bucket.”
Dowd stated that with the organization working with Storm Aid to build their houses it is estimated that the organization will spend around $20,000 for each home. The organization is using other methods such as getting donated materials and volunteer labor to cut down on costs. Dowd stated that the organization has helped itself by having five case managers in place.
Dowd then praised the work of the case managers, who he says are the lifeline of the organization. He explained how each case manager handles each case with special care, and will not leave that case until it is completed.
Dowd stated he would like to hold this meeting every week to bring all the assets that are helping in the goal of recovery together at one time. “What we envision doing at these meetings is to give you a rundown of where we are at,” Dowd said. “And also to lay before you what we need and what we are looking for.”
Dowd then asked Volunteer Coordinator Hubert Yates to give an update on the volunteers. Yates’ report covered the past week, and included the number of teams that participated the number of man hours worked, and a list of current projects. Some of those current projects listed were debris pickup, demo work, and scheduled house repairs.
Next to address the members and audience was Case Manager Coordinator Mellie Jordan, who presented a case manager report. Jordan stated at this time they were working on 70 cases, and explained what their needs are, such as immediate access to money for certain situations. She also listed items that would be needed, such as furniture, mattresses, pillowcases, and other novelties.
Jordan also gave an example of one storm victim who needs help packing her clothes in her home to move, and how she would need volunteer help to do this. She also mentioned that helping the volunteers was needed, such as a church cooking lunch for volunteers.
The meeting then opened to the floor, with all attending exchanging ideas and information between each other. The information exchanged was very positive, with the members of ‘WinstonStrong’ receiving ideas that would help alleviate some of the expenses of these repairs, as well as locating individuals and groups for labor.
Also contributing to the discussion was FEMA member Carla Moore. Moore has been on the ground for FEMA since the aftermath of the storms. She encouraged everyone to bring others with them to the future meetings, so they can go out into the community and spreading the word. Dowd then recognized Moore for all her efforts and hard work during her time in Winston County, and she received a standing ovation from all of those attending.
Dowd informed everyone that future meetings for the updates will be held on Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. If you would like to volunteer or donate to the victims of the April 28 storms, you may call ‘WinstonStrong’ at 405-403-3404, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.winstonstrong.com.