By Glenn Leach
When disaster strikes — whether fire, flood or tornado — a flurry of media coverage motivates people to respond with assistance in the form of donated funds or on-site help. Unfortunately, as is the experience of some victims of disasters, the need for assistance continues for a long period. But media interest has waned and assistance has dropped off.
The Diocese of Davenport urges parishes to prepare disaster plans and to consider how their parishes might be of assistance when an emergency strikes and leaves neighbors in need of help. One way is to join a local ecumenical pastoral group, or as an individual, to participate in local response organizations called community organizations active in disasters (COADs).
Ten of the 22 counties in the diocese belong to or are forming such groups. They include community organizations such as the Red Cross, university extension offices, United Way, county emergency management offices, social service agencies and pastoral associations. These COADs assemble at volunteer coordination centers and assist with feeding and housing volunteers and provide guidance to those seeking aid for the short or long term.
COADs serve an important role in continuing to help families and individuals to define a recovery strategy and implement it. The long-term recovery committees, through case workers, bring donated funds and goods together with volunteer and professional labor to assist families. Accessing aid can be a bewildering and complex process for families, especially those who have been displaced.
The COADS, upon receiving requests for help, work through their members to assure that anyone needing assistance gets the necessary support. COADs assure the most efficient distribution of assistance by tracking claims and avoiding duplication of benefits. If your community has a COAD, consider joining it. If your community does not have a COAD, consider forming one.