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FL agencies band together post-tornado

Responders to Florida's Feb. 2 tornadoes are worried that some residents may not be coming forward for the help they need.

BY HEATHER MOYER | DELAND, Fla. | February 6, 2007

Responders to Florida's Feb. 2 tornadoes are worried that some residents may not be coming forward for the help they need.

Some member agencies of the Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (FLVOAD) say language barriers and distrust of outsiders are an issue in some neighborhoods where residents are not yet in the know about what to do next in the recovery.

One responder added that some recovery myths are also abound near Lake Mack in Lake County, with some residents thinking that they must wait to hear from insurance companies first before registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A federal disaster declaration was announced Saturday in response to the tornadoes, which killed 20 people and damaged more than 1,500 homes across four counties.

Other residents may be afraid to step forward due to their immigration status. Lesli Remaly-Netter of Church World Service (CWS) said she's been approaching the various migrant farm-worker support agencies in Lake, Volusia, Sumter and Seminole counties to check in. She said the agencies are touching base with their communities to make sure the correct information gets disseminated.

Agencies are publishing informational fliers in English and Spanish as well, as workers try to get numbers on how many of those affected are underinsured or not insured at all. The hardest hit communities are Lady Lake, Lake Mack, Paisley, DeLand and New Smyrna Beach.

As more concrete home damage numbers are tallied, FLVOAD members are also urging the public to provide the most helpful donations: money or building materials. In Volusia County, the number of homes destroyed by Friday's powerful F2 and F3 tornadoes has hit 200, with another few hundred suffering various levels of damage. Lake County saw more than 200 homes destroyed and another 100 or so with major damage. Sumter County is reporting 68 destroyed and another 250 with major damage.

A long-term recovery committee covering Lake and Sumter counties has been reactivated. The Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery committee (LASER) is again operating and may split to cover each county separately. CWS' Lesli Remaly-Netter stated that they are partnering with Catholic Charities, that CWS is requested funds for Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster, LASER, and Volusia Interfaith Interagency Networking in Disaster (VIND), and offered training to long-term recovery committees.

Denominations continue checking in on churches in the affected areas, and many report that churches from around the state and region are calling to ask how they can help. Lutheran Services Florida is distributing hygiene kits and blankets as well as offering future services to children of the tornadoes.

The United Church of Christ has volunteer teams on stand-by to help, Church of the Brethren has Disaster Child Care volunteers at the ready, and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee has offered its needs assessment skills to the affected areas as well.

FLVOAD members and government officials also continued urging unaffiliated volunteers to not just show up in the affected areas and that people call responding agencies first before either showing up or running donation drives.


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