Volunteers to help with county cleanup efforts next week

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2003

A few hundred miles is not a deterrent for volunteers with the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters who will spend a week helping with cleanup efforts in Lawrence County next week.

Sixty skilled adults and youth volunteers will travel from Atlanta, Ga., to work with the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency to remove debris and help repair some structural damages to homes caused by the President's Day ice storms and the May floods, said Don Mootz, executive director of the EMA office.

"It takes a special type of person to come that far to do this kind of work for people," he said. "For this group to travel this distance, I would think they recognize the need and have compassion for people who are in a disaster situation."

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Organized by the

the Ohio chapter of VOAD, through the Lutherans' Social Services organization and the Jackson Area Ministries, this is the first time this group has visited the county.

"This is a big help because there are still unmet needs and long-term recovery efforts," said Mary Woodward, director for Southeast Ohio Ministries of the Lutheran Social Services. "Not everyone is eligible for FEMA aid. VOAD targets unmet needs."

The assistance is badly needed because the county did not qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance for the recent flood damage, Mootz said.

"We do not have enough people who suffered major damage to qualify us for FEMA aid. You need 25 people with 40 percent structural damage, and we only have five," he said. "We have 80 people in the county that had major damage in our eyes, but FEMA looks at it differently."

Part of the discrepancy is that FEMA does not include damages to basements when making their assessments. Some residents in the county had several feet of water in their homes, he said.

Arriving at 10 p.m. Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in Ironton, the group will stay in the county until next Friday. The volunteers will be split into teams to try to cover as much area as possible.

The elderly or anyone who needs assistance with cleanup can call the EMA office at 533-4375. Applicants must supply the materials for any projects.

VOAD coordinates the efforts of 81 member agencies and voluntary organizations to respond to disaster situations.

This cooperative effort allows a

variety of volunteers and organizations, such as the Salvation Army and Red Cross, to unite in time of need.

Volunteers will also help with relief efforts in six other Ohio counties and will return to Lawrence County several times during the summer. A group of 15 volunteers from Cincinnati will visit in July and a group of 25 from Nebraska will be in the county in August, Woodward said.

Also, Mootz is working on recruiting members of Long-Term Recovery Committee that would work with VOAD and allow the county additional support, Woodward said.