Friday, May 18, 2012

One Year Later: NeighborWorks and Post-Disaster Community Rebuilding

The tornadoes were powerful enough to  not
not only destroy homes but also buildings.
On April 27, 2011, a swath of tornadoes devastated communities across the southeast, resulting in 324 tornado-related deaths across six states. Recently, a NeighborWorks America team spent three days touring a number of affected communities. The visit bore witness to the rebuilding efforts being carried out by local NeighborWorks organizations.

At the invitation of NeighborWorks network member, Community Action Partnership (The Partnership), Congressman Robert Aderholt (Alabama - 4th district) joined the group as it toured sites in his district. “As we remember one-year ago today, my thoughts and prayers are with all those that were affected by the devastating storms that ripped through our state and changed our lives forever,” said Congressman Aderholt. “However the damage, destruction and loss of life that was suffered on April 27, 2011, did not break us...In the wake of such devastation, we came together. The unprecedented storms brought unprecedented coordination between first responders and emergency teams, elected officials and government agencies, and countless relief and faith-based organizations. There were neighbors helping neighbors and oftentimes strangers helping strangers.”

Opening of Housing Resource Center in Phil Campbell, Alabama. (l-r) Relationship Manager Dollie Whittle, Director of Field Operations Robert Burns, The Partnership’s Chief Outcomes Officer Jack Green, Congressman Robert Aderholt and son Robert Hayes, and The Partnership’s Executive Director Mike Tubbs.
NeighborWorks America, through its Southern District, based in Atlanta, has facilitated the development of a comprehensive collaborative service delivery strategy for Alabama that reflected shared goals and incorporated the strengths of key network members. “Faced with a challenging economy and the recent disasters, the NeighborWorks network members thought it was necessary to work collaboratively to provide needed services to communities across the state,” said District Director Donald Phoenix. “The key was to help organizations rally around common challenges and capitalize on each other’s strengths to create market-driven solutions for Alabama residents in need.”

The NeighborWorks organizations helping Alabama communities recover include The Partnership, Neighborhood Housing Services of Birmingham (NHSB), Community Service Programs (CSP), and the Kentucky-based network member Fahe (also known as the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises).

New homeowner Kim Cole is flanked by
Jack Green, the Partnership and
Congressman Aderholt
In the aftermath of the disaster, CSP’s executive director Cynthia Burton explained that she used funding from NeighborWorks America to provide medical care, gas cards and, in one location, a grocery and resource store for residents.

In West Liberty, Kentucky, 73 businesses were destroyed and more than 400 homes were ruined or made uninhabitable. FAHE is using $50,000 from NeighborWorks America to cover expenses related to food, water, temporary shelter and home restoration.

John Colon, executive director of NHSB, is currently focused on constructing houses that offer additional protection and savings opportunity for residents. “NHSB plans to build two single-family, energy-efficient homes utilizing some of the best building technologies available today,” he said. “In addition to energy efficiency, each home will feature resistance against stronger winds and an underground storm shelter for greater protection."

This forward thinking approach is characteristic of NeighborWorks efforts in post-disaster areas. In our last fiscal year, NeighborWorks America made more than $1.7 million in grants to NeighborWorks organizations assisting in recovery from tornadoes and hurricanes, and we continue to support long-term rebuilding efforts in Gulf communities seven years after Hurricane Katrina.

To read the incredible stories about disaster survival and recovery in Alabama, download this presentation.