United Way launches long-term recovery plan to help Jefferson County after tornado on Jan. 25

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tornado relief efforts
Fultondale, Centerpoint and Pinson are all still recovering after the devastating tornado on January 25, 2021. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

When a natural disaster strikes an area, the recovery process is much longer than a few days. After the devastating damage to Fultondale, Center Point and Pinson by the tornado on January 25, the neighborhoods are still hurting. United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) is leading tornado relief efforts to repair the community long-term. Sign up to be a volunteer, donate online or by texting “Tornado” to 62644 and lend a hand too.

Tornado relief efforts continue after the storm

tornado relief efforts
Immediate tornado relief efforts include making sure everyone is safe, but the next step is getting those hurt back on their feet. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Right after a disaster hits, there are a couple of phases implemented. The first is recovery where organizations like Red Cross, FEMA and others come in as quickly as possible to stabilize people. They provide emergency shelter, blankets, food, clear roads and assist any immediate, emergency needs.

Once they leave, there are still a lot of people who have a tough time getting back on their feet. Their lives are turned upside down and even though they’re safe, it’s a hard dismount back to normal life.

Where United Way of Central Alabama comes in

Since UWCA is a community organization, they stay long after the first responders have done their work and provide recovery assistance for those affected. UWCA puts together a long-term recovery committee, or unmet needs committee, with help from Central Alabama organizations.

You can sign up to be a volunteer and help individuals and families.

Coordination is key

tornado relief efforts
UWCA convenes community partners to help in an organized way to better assist those in need. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

By bringing the community together, UWCA allows various organizations to work together in a coordinated manner so assistance is more efficient and comes quicker to people who are struggling.

After the initial damage assessments are completed, case managers assess the individuals affected. This allows the Unmet Needs Committee to understand the unmet needs of the residents and what it will require to get them back on their feet. 

“We realize there may be individuals and families in need who were not initially assessed in the early stages of the response. We encourage those individuals to dial 2-1-1 if they are in need. We have call specialists available who will assist and complete an intake so a case manager can be assigned to help with their unmet needs.”

Karla Lawrence, Senior Vice President Community Initiatives, United Way of Central Alabama

With the challenges of COVID-19, the Long-term Recovery case managers will try to complete the majority of case management virtually. Currently, there are about 100 cases of residents whose biggest recovery need is housing.

Money, manpower, materials

From there, UWCA along with the Jefferson and Shelby County VOAD members convene organizations and individuals that have access to financial assistance, materials, food, clothing, household items and other resources to help the individuals recover.

UWCA and these organizations hear the case managers present the unmet need cases. Rather than having different organizations put all their resources into one project, every organization can decide how to assist based on the information presented and fund accordingly.

“We’re trying to coordinate services among the various community organizations in response to the needs of the client, rather than making the client come to all of us individually. So, this whole idea of having a long-term recovery committee where organizations that have resources to help can join us and serve clients in an organized way is so much more humane and efficient.”

Drew Langloh, CEO, United Way of Central Alabama

Every one assists in the best way they can

“We present each case and every member of the LTRC has the opportunity to commit to different needs based on their mission and the resources they have available. So, our goal is to do this every week—as long as our resources are available. The resources may not return the individuals to their pre-disaster state, but it helps them get back on their feet.”

Drew Langloh

For example, organizations are asked: Who can help fund a deposit on their apartment so they can move into a new place? Who has the resources to pay for a mattress and box spring for a family? Who can help with moving labor to a new home?

You can be a part of the efforts too. Here are a few ways:

Volunteer opportunities include clean up, debris removal, basic needs, repairs, and rebuild through United Way Hands On in partnership with Jefferson County EMA.

Not a one-organization job

It takes a village to rebuild a community. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

UWCA is committed to helping our neighbors in times of crisis. It’s part of the nonprofit’s mission to respond to the needs of our community and work together with others.

“We are a community-centered organization…We’re always owned by the community. Disasters typically affect communities on a scale that no one organization can do all by itself.

One of the roles we can play is to coordinate all organizations that want to help in a way that they can both maintain their own identity, but at the same time provide care that is helpful to individuals who are hurting. It’s what we do to take care of the community.”

Drew Langloh

Sign-up to be a disaster relief volunteer, donate to the United Way disaster fund or donate funds by texting “Tornado” to 62644 to be a part of the tornado relief efforts.

Learn more ways to get involved with United Way of Central Alabama through their website and when you follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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