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Just 1 of 700 NV homes insured

Volunteer team works to determine survivor needs following NV flooding

BY VICKI DESORMIER | FERNLEY, NV | February 28, 2008

Char Dykema left the cold of Michigan for the relative warmth of Nevada last week to assist the survivors of a very unusual flood in the Nevada desert. She and a team of 10 will be going door-to-door in the Fernley area talking to those whose houses were flooded Jan. 6 when a levee broke and flooded 700 homes.

Only one homeowner has the necessary insurance to replace his home and contents. All of the others are having to rely on their own resources and on the kindness of others to try to get their lives back on track.

Dykema is a member of the Christian Reform World Relief Committee's (CRWRC) disaster assessment team. CRWRC has a four page interview document they will bring to residents to find out what they still need now that the initial clean up has been completed.

"It could be anything from emotional assistance to washers and dryers," Dykema said. Sometimes, survivors just need someone to listen and team members are prepared to do that too.

The group, which calls itself the Green Shirts after their adopted uniform, will stay in town for two weeks and compile all the information into a database to be used by the city's Long Term Recovery Team. That team is made up of members of the Lyon County Human Services division, a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and representatives of a number of relief organizations, said Janet Gilbert.

"The team will focus on helping people recover and return to their lives through whatever ways we can find," Gilbert said. "We are neighbors helping neighbors by referring them to the best resources that are already out there."

Dykema said the members of her team will put together the database that will help the long term recovery team and other groups put their resources to work right away without having to seek out those in need.

"A lot of times people are wary to take any help until they see their neighbors getting something done and then they ask and sometimes they don't even ask," she said. "We go and listen to people and we find out their stories and get the information that those who can help them need."

Fernley residents are recovering slowly. On Friday, federal officials were in town trying to make sure small businesses affected by the flooding were registered with both FEMA and the Small Business Administration so they could get as much funding as possible to rebuild the city's business district.

Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV) told Fernley residents they were entitled to federal assistance and encouraged them to register for it.

"Fernley residents have suffered a great deal of hardships since the flood and need all the help they can get," he said.

Dykema said she and her assessment team would be passing that message along to every household they visit over the next few weeks. She said that in her initial introduction to the city, she found that many people were content to help each other rebuild and few seemed to be ready to ask for help.

"We're here to find out what they need and to get them ready for rebuilding," she noted.

Once the CRWRC team is done assessing the community needs, she added, other groups will come in to begin helping those who have not yet rebuilt their homes and businesses to move forward on the process.

Representatives of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) have been in Fernley to provide case management training. Dykema said the data her team collects will be given to the Long Term Recovery Team which will then dispatch volunteers from UMCOR and elsewhere to start rebuilding.

"These people have been through a lot and some of them didn't have a lot to begin with," she said. "The community has come together and people have come from far away to help. With everyone working together, we will be able to rebuild."

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