World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) is focusing its response to several disasters this week after tornadoes and severe storms hit neighborhoods in a half-dozen U.S. states during the week of June 9, 2014.
In Pilger, Nebraska, two people died and 75 percent of the town’s homes were damaged or destroyed when twin EF4 tornadoes rampaged through the area. Hundreds of farm animals were also killed and agricultural land is in jeopardy, putting farmer’s homes and their livelihoods at risk.
World Renew DRS Regional Managers Mark and Carol Martin made early damage assessments in Pilger last week. The couple is currently organizing World Renew’s leadership role in spearheading the work of Nebraska’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD) in response to the June disaster.
“World Renew DRS has been asked to lead the NE-VOAD initiative in the Pilger area,” said World Renew DRS Director Bill Adams. “The request is an indication of World Renew’s credibility and reputation for excellence in domestic disaster response.”
A major portion of World Renew’s leadership role in Nebraska will be developing one or more long-term recovery groups (LTRGs) in the areas most affected by the disaster, Adams explained. The LTRGs are comprised of community members who prioritize the response efforts, manage the recovery process, and address the community member’s unmet needs.
“In this leadership role, World Renew DRS will oversee the development of the LTRGs as registered non-profit organizations,” Adams said. “Then we will help identify and train a board, director, and staff who will develop a plan to identify the community’s resources, assess unmet needs, manage the work load, and develop additional financial resources.”
A timeline for the length of World Renew’s response in Nebraska is also being developed.
Further north, destructive weather caused damage and flooding to land and homes in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. World Renew DRS Regional Managers Rich and Pat Grasman travelled to northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota to assess flooding that resulted along the Rock River where they were in contact with the area’s many Reformed and Christian Reformed congregations and residents.
The damage was particularly heavy in Rock Valley, Iowa, where several mobile home communities were totally destroyed and house foundations were washed away or collapsed in the water-saturated soil.
“Congregations asked for World Renew’s assistance in treating mold in homes that have been standing in a couple of feet of water,” Rich Grasman said. “A DRS Rapid Response Team is currently in Rock Valley to provide mold mitigation and train volunteers to use the equipment.”
While local churches and their members have been affected by the flooding, they and other Christian organizations are also reaching out to help their neighbors.
- Faith Reformed Church (RCA) in Rock Valley was used as an early evacuation center in the flood.
- Trinity Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Rock Valley is hosting the World Renew Rapid Response Team and organizing local volunteer efforts.
- The young people’s group at First RCA is making sandwiches to feed volunteers who are working in the response.
- Dordt College is housing residents of two Hope Haven group homes that were flooded. Hope Haven is a ministry with people with physical and developmental disabilities.
The Grasmans have been in contact with local officials and other national response organizations through Iowa’s VOAD, a state organization similar to World Renew’s partner in Nebraska.
“World Renew’s response in disasters like this month’s tornadoes in Nebraska and the flooding in Iowa are good representations of our involvement in North America’s network of faith-based, volunteer organizations,” Adams says. “At the national VOAD level, we have many different roles in responding to disasters as Christians, Catholics, Jewish believers, and other faiths who are working together with a common vision in local communities.”