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County seeks volunteers for disaster recovery

Help wanted: must be community-oriented and willing to help neighbors.

If Jim Ditzler or Mike Boster were to hang out a sign in front of the Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency office, that is probably what the sign would read.

Ditzler, who is department chair for the Long Term Recovery Committee for the Ohio Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) and Boster, who is the county’s EMA director, hosted an informational meeting Thursday to explain the need for a county-wide long term disaster recovery committee — a group of people who would organize resources and help meet the needs of disaster victims when an emergency occurs.

“Several times a year our county is subject to various types of emergencies and disasters,” Boster said. He used as an example the May 2 flash flooding that forced people out of their homes particularly in the State Route 93 area.

While the flooding was not severe enough to merit a federal disaster declaration, the people affected still needed help.

VOAD is an umbrella organization that marshals the resources and manpower of non-profit groups and churches to help clean up after and then aid victims after floods and other disasters.

“No doubt about it, there are a whole variety of things going on right after an event happens, there are unmet needs,” Ditzler said.

Ditzler and Boster want to see local non-profit groups and churches organize to help with future emergencies.

The county used to have a long- term recovery committee but over the years participation waned.

Boster pointed out that while he used to have a staff of six who often handled these kinds of responsibilities, because of county budget cuts, he now has a staff of one (himself), borrows an office manager from another agency and takes volunteers when he can get them.

Having an LRTC would help him when he needs help the most — during emergencies when dozens of families are all asking for his attention at the same time. Having an LTRC would also identify resources that are already available within the county that can be used in an emergency. Boster pointed out several churches, for instances, that have food pantries and clothing banks, basics that are needed when people are flooded out of their homes.

VOAD will host a second LTRC meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday at St. Paul Lutheran Church. Those who are interested may attend.