National Service Responds to Alabama Tornadoes
Washington, D.C. – As Alabama starts the rebuilding process from the deadly tornadoes that caused severe damage across the state, national service participants and volunteers are working hard to ensure affected communities get help needed to recover.
On April 27, more than 40 tornadoes struck the state, including nine tornadoes that fell into the EF-4 or EF-5 categories. The deadly storms killed more than 200 in Alabama, destroying buildings and homes along its path. Tuscaloosa, Alabama was the epicenter of the deadly EF-4 tornado, killing more than 40 people.
“The outpouring of volunteers who are ready to serve individuals and families affected by the devastation is tremendous and unprecedented,” said Jon Mason, Director of the Alabama Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. “AmeriCorps and RSVP volunteers were on the scene within a day and their continued presence long after the storms will help Alabama rebuild and recover, no matter how long it takes.”
As the lead agency for donation and volunteer management for the state, the Alabama Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is responsible for ensuring resources and infrastructure are in place to implement an effective disaster relief operation. The office manages the creation of volunteer reception centers and disaster recovery centers, oversees donation warehouse, and supports the 2-1-1 call system and ServeAlabama.gov portal for recovery assistance and volunteer information. Over the past two weeks, they have registered more than 10,000 volunteers. On May 7, more than 3,000 volunteers were on hand to help recovery efforts in Tuscaloosa and more than 900 volunteers served affected residents in Huntsville. An additional 1,100 volunteers served in Hackleburg, which had a population of 1,500 prior to the storm.
“RSVP volunteers have stepped up to the plate in the wake of the disaster,” said Betty Ruth, Director of Athens-Limestone County RSVP. “It's amazing to see RSVP volunteers participate in all realms of the relief effort, from debris removal to volunteer management. RSVPs from around the country have been doing their part, collecting supplies and donations to send to the affected areas. We are one big family and we all band together and help out when a disaster happens, affecting our programs and our volunteers.”
National service programs and members have been a vital part of the response across Alabama:
· 25 RSVP Volunteers of Athens-Limestone County have been at work, helping operate the Volunteer Reception Center which has managed more than 1,100 volunteers since opening on April 29.
· Calhoun County RSVP of Jacksonville, Ala. has opened a Volunteer Reception Center in Ohatchee, registering more than 700 volunteers which have helped more than 300 tornado victims. Etowah County RSVP has also been working to help coordinate volunteer and donations in the aftermath of the storms.
· 25 RSVP Volunteers of Pike County worked to coordinate the collection of supplies and donations that were delivered to the devastated areas. Three 18-Wheeler transfer trucks were loaded with supplies to support tornado victims. RSVP volunteers also traveled to the devastated areas to assist the local Red Cross Volunteers in preparing meals for the families and disaster workers.
· 12 AmeriCorps NCCC teams have been deployed to Alabama to help with disaster relief efforts. Four teams are currently in Tuscaloosa with CitiIMPACT, an international faith-based ministry, and the United Saints Recovery Project, a New Orleans nonprofit focused on helping communities rebuild out of disasters. The teams will focus their efforts on food distribution and collection, debris removal, home repairs, and volunteer coordination.
· Two additional AmeriCorps NCCC teams have been assigned to Madison, Ala., one to Greensboro, Ala., and one to Theodore, Ala.
· AmeriCorps National Preparedness and Response Corps host sites, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and New Orleans, have sent more than more than 16 AmeriCorps members to support the American Red Cross in Alabama.
· AmeriCorps VISTA and the Volunteer and Information Center have worked closely with the Cullman County Emergency Management Agency to set up a Volunteer Reception Center in the region, dispatching more than 2,340 volunteers to affected areas the weekend after the April 27 tornadoes. Volunteer efforts resulted in more than 13,940 hours of service to residents affected by the impact of the disaster.
· AmeriCorps VISTAs also have helped set up a Volunteer Reception Center in Elmore County, registering and training more than 520 volunteers who donated more than 2,100 hours to affected communities.
· AmeriCorps VISTAs are also staffing the 2-1-1 Call Center in Birmingham with the United Way of Central Alabama and HandsOn Birmingham, fielding more than 5,000 calls everyday. The United Way of Central Alabama, an AmeriCorps VISTA sponsor, organized a 22-hour telethon, with Media General, Inc., resulting in more than $700,000 in funds raised for the families affected by the disaster.
The Corporation for National and Community Service is working closely with FEMA, state emergency officials, state service commissions, and nonprofit organizations to assess the dynamic situation and determine the most effective role for additional national service participants in response to these disasters.