When Disaster Hits Home: Relief Efforts at Work
I am from Charleston, W.Va., and if anyone knows me for more than one minute, they realize how important my home state means to me. I live in Indianapolis, but travel back to West Virginia whenever I can to see family, friends, classmates and those close to me. Last week, I went back to West Virginia while on vacation to attend my niece’s wedding and see my new, week-old nephew. What I did not expect was to drive right into a 1,000-year flood.
I typically stay at my sister’s house in Elkview, W.Va. When I arrived in Charleston, I immediately had to stay at a downtown hotel because no one could reach my sister’s house due to the fact that Elk River floodwaters had blocked roads and washed out bridge-like structures.
According to CNN, at least 23 people died, including a 4-year-old who was washed away by floodwaters. This flood has devastated more than 1,200 homes. Twelve schools are a total loss. According to Samaritan’s Purse, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for 44 out of the state’s 55 counties after more than nine inches of rain in less than nine hours created an unprecedented deluge of water. The rain hit Roane and Greenbrier counties, as well as my home county of Kanawha, particularly hard. It also destroyed several hundred businesses.
According to Jessica Lilly of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, West Virginians themselves now are donating time, talents and treasures to help flood victims. My brother-in-law and I traveled to several hard-hit areas near his home. It was gratifying to see many volunteers set up staging areas to receive donations. I am proud to say my family members also stepped up with time, talent or treasure. I was amazed at the hundreds of homes that are located directly on the Elk River.
My mother-in-law suffered damage to her property located on the Kanawha River. The Elk River feeds into the Kanawha River at Charleston. In Greenbrier County, The Greenbrier, a famous resort, cancelled an upcoming PGA tournament and closed the facility to patrons. However, I learned that Jim Justice, the owner of the resort, is keeping it open to flood victims.
Those with the least in West Virginia give the most to help neighbors.
That is what philanthropy is all about in today’s world.
I recently learned that a high school classmate rented a truck and will bring donations to his home state from Georgia. Federal assistance is coming, but many organizations, such as Samaritan’s Purse, American Red Cross and other West Virginia disaster relief agencies, are seeking private donations.
I am particularly proud of The Salvation Army’s disaster relief efforts. In addition to working on collaborative efforts with other disaster service agencies, like Moose International, The Salvation Army is working hand-in-hand with the office of U. S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., helping to distribute Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance applications for flood victims in Clendenin, W.Va., near Elkview, according to The Salvation Army Maryland/West Virginia Division’s divisional development director and Rev. Charles Nutt.
In the first 72 hours after the flood hit West Virginia, for example, The Salvation Army provided more than 6,600 meals, nearly 3,400 snacks and more than 7,500 drinks to flood victims and emergency responders over a four-county area. These services will continue as long as needed and as requested by West Virginia County emergency operation centers.
There are many ways you can give to the various relief agencies. People can help at this time by sending a check earmarked “June 2016 West Virginia Floods” to their local Salvation Army offices, online or by making a credit card donation at 1-800-SAL-ARMY. Be sure to designate the donation for the “June 2016 West Virginia Floods.” Regardless of the size of the gift, just give!
Disaster hit my home, West Virginia, in a big way. That said, what impressed me the most when seeing the flooded areas was how West Virginians are working very hard to survive in any way possible. I am certain West Virginians and others across the country will provide assistance to help. I have never seen flooding in West Virginia like the 1,000-year flood. If you can help, please do it today.
I pray for the survivors and those affected by these floodwaters. Life goes on for all of us, but the flooding has made this endeavor harder than it needs to be.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last nine years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 25 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years. He received his doctorate from West Virginia University with an emphasis in philanthropy, masters from Marshall University with an emphasis on resource development and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with emphasis in marketing/management. Currently he is executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org.