Raising such as sum was unthinkable even for the experienced staff of the Walker Area Community Foundation, which has awarded $10 million in grants since 1997.
However, the WACF board was the first to contribute to the cause.
The Foundation’s Unmet Needs Fund, which was established more than a decade ago as a result of tornadoes that struck Carbon Hill, was reactivated within a week of the disaster. The money that was set to go out in the spring grant cycle, $250,000, was obligated to it with $50,000 earmarked to address immediate needs.
The board could not have anticipated how crucial their decision would be to the area’s recovery.
“It gave us leverage,” said Christy Moody, director of operations for WACF.
Mennonite Disaster Service, which has been active in Walker County throughout the rebuilding process, has a four-pillar system that other groups emulate in deciding where to send volunteers.
They are willing to provide the first pillar, labor, to whoever can prove that they have meaningful work and a support system in place that includes accommodations and equipment.
Finally, the necessary finances must be readily available.
“The volunteers would have never stepped foot in Walker County if we had not had that original $250,000. Once outside funders knew that we had a nest egg and we had volunteers coming, they felt comfortable funding projects in Walker County,” Moody said.
By the end of 2011, 52 cases had been approved by the county’s Long Term Recovery Committee for construction and more than 1,000 volunteer hours had helped get storm survivors closer to being safe, sanitary and secure.
At the two year anniversary, a total of $2,094,581.49 has flowed into Walker County for recovery efforts.
One of the largest contributors has been locally-based Drummond Company, Inc., which gave $600,000 to help present and retired employees who were affected by the April 27 tornadoes.
“After that clientele was exhausted, they opened the fund to anyone in Walker County,” Moody said.
Walker County has received $250,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund, the beneficiary of star athlete Bo Jackson’s charity bike rides for the past two years.
Through LTRC’s association with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination’s North Alabama Conference gave $220,000.
Central Alabama Long Term Recovery, housed in the United Way of Central Alabama and funded through multiple sources, has contributed $293,418.
Other critical donations have come from the Bama Rising Fund, the Alabama Tornado Recovery Fund, the Brownell Tornado Recovery Fund, the Lily Fund, the Daniel Foundation, Salvation Army and World Renew Disaster Response Services, which also provided countless volunteers to Walker County.
The value of the labor provided by groups such as World Renew and MDS cannot be overestimated, according to Moody.
LTRC has paid for licensed contractors on a limited basis when local codes required, but the bulk of the rebuilding has rested on the shoulders of volunteers who have traveled from all across the United States and Canada to help local residents.
‘When we got into this, we were told to double our estimate on materials and that would be the cost of labor and materials. If you double the $2 million that we’ve raised, you come to the $4 million unmet needs,” Moody said. “In essence, we raised $2 million and the volunteer groups brought another $2 million into our community.”
Thanks to the support received from funders and faith-based volunteers, members of LTRC will soon say for the final time words that have been celebrated on hundreds of occasions in the past two years — “Case closed.”