Local residents quickly rose to the occasion.
When representatives of the United Way of Central Alabama first contacted their partners here, they realized that a network of agencies and volunteers were already addressing such needs as housing and feeding.
“Our local churches and volunteer organizations took care of everything that we needed immediately,” said Christy Moody, director of operations for the Walker Area Community Foundation.
It took longer to realize the need for a group that would guide the recovery after the emergency phase of the disaster had ended.
Moody recalls that it was Jerry Harfoot, FEMA’s voluntary agency liaison assigned to Walker County, who strongly recommended the formation of a Long Term Recovery Committee.
“We were still talking through things like whether everybody had been fed today, if we knew of anyone in emergency situations, what kind of items were coming in for distribution. We didn’t know what a Long Term Recovery Committee was or why we needed it,” Moody said.
Harfoot served as the mentor for LTRC from April through December 2011. United Way of Central Alabama also served as an invaluable resource as committee members began assessing needs, hiring caseworkers and soliciting funds and volunteers for projects.
Certain criteria had to be met before LTRC would intervene on a client’s behalf.
The individuals or families seeking help had to be homeowners, have verifiable storm damage on a structure in which they were living on April 27, have exhausted all other available resources and have a need they could not address themselves.
At first, caseworkers went door-to door seeking storm survivors who had been overlooked by the federal system. After the first repairs and rebuilds were completed, other clients began approaching the committee.
WACF has served as the committee’s fiscal agent, handling the more than $2 million that flowed into the county over the past two years for recovery efforts.
While there have been many success stories to come out of LTRC’s work, there have also been moments of difficulty, uncertainty and personal tragedy.
The committee unexpectedly lost one of its own, construction coordinator Richard Ruble, in January. Ruble had been so instrumental in coordinating LTRC’s various projects that his death left his peers not only grieving but also reeling to find a suitable replacement.
Unbeknownst to most of them, Mennonite Disaster Service had had a man in Walker County for months who had worked alongside Ruble and knew the local system well enough to fulfill the remaining responsibilities. Mike Gorchynski has served as LTRC’s construction coordinator since that time.
MDS and World Renew Disaster Response Services worked closely together as never before in Ruble’s honor to complete LTRC’s projects, even collaborating on a house construction for the first time in the history of the faith-based organizations.
The local committe, in conjunction with MDS and World Renew, will dedicate its final home this afternoon.
Moody said a date to end LTRC’s operations was never established. The hope of committee members was only that the supply of labor, financial resources and projects would all run out simultaneously.
Through hard work, dedication and apparent divine design, that magic moment has coincided with the second anniversay of the tornado.
“It was not a goal. The pieces of the puzzle fell together this way,” Moody said.