KY recovery short on resources

Will resources go elsewhere?

BY HEATHER MOYER | INEZ, KY | September 3, 2004

"We’re all very determined, we just need the resources to move further along now."

—Sherry Buresh

Hurricane Frances could have a far-reaching impact by the middle of next week, with some projections placing its remnants as far north as central Kentucky. For those in Kentucky recovering from late May’s severe flooding, that’s not the most welcome news.

Hundreds of families lost their homes when raging floodwaters came rolling down through the hills of eastern Kentucky in May. The Appalachian region was already an economically depressed area, and the disaster only compounded those problems.

The five hardiest hit counties – Martin, Magoffin, Floyd, Pike, and Johnson – have formed interfaith recovery teams. Those five interfaiths are being assisted by a newly created umbrella interfaith called Eastern Kentucky Long Term Recovery Coordinating Committee (EKLTRCC).

The thought of more damage and less attention on their continuing recovery needs is worrying interfaith organizers. With so many focusing their relief donations on Florida, fund-raising has been very challenging for the groups.

“Our concern is with all the other disasters happening, folks won’t realize there are still people here in great need,” said Sherry Buresh, chair of EKLTRCC. “Our big hold-up now is money. The county groups are out of resources.”

Fortunately, the initial challenges of reaching all the families in the most rural areas has been completed Buresh said. The interfaiths have 300 cases so far, but she expects that number and the need to increase in the winter months. The flooding wiped out many families’ gardens and livestock, staples which families usually count on during colder months. “The cases we’re seeing now are still very dramatic,” she explained. “But more needs will surface as time goes by.”

Many families need appliances. Others are also dealing with unemployment.

There has been a side benefit in the creation of the interfaiths. “We are up and running really strong with a lot of hard-working and dedicated people ready to go,” said Buresh, who also works for the Christian Appalachian Project. “We are happy with the fact that when another disaster happens, we are ready.”

The membership of EKLTRCC includes churches, local and state government officials, non-profits, and the Kentucky Interfaith Disaster Recovery Program (KIDRP). Harper Davis, chair of KIDRP, took a crucial role in the creation of the county interfaiths and EKLTRCC.

He said he's happy to see how well the groups are working at this point. "I think the efforts are going well. We worked hard to get local ministers involved and it's coming along very well. I'm also now committed to starting up other interfaiths across the state so something is in place before disasters happen."

Davis said he's working with the state emergency management agency on that issue, and in the meantime, he agrees that money is the most needed resource in the eastern Kentucky recovery.

Another member of the EKLTRCC board is the state chapter of Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (KYVOAD).

George Betz, chair of KYVOAD, said a national VOAD team came in during August to train the staff of the county interfaiths. “It’s been very successful,” said Betz, who is also the community disaster educator for the Louisville chapter of the American Red Cross. “They were here to help support and mentor the groups.”

Betz said the interfaiths received lessons in donation management, casework, and construction coordination -– a major undertaking in the region that lost so many homes.

“The interfaiths could really use volunteers and building supplies. They have much of the work mapped out, but without volunteers the work can’t get done.”

Buresh agreed. “We’re all very determined, we just need the resources to move further along now.”

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