A guest post from Paul D. Daugherty, President and CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia. This post originally appeared on the Center for Disaster Philanthropy's blog.
For over a century, numerous cities and states across our nation have benefited from the industrial, innovative, and committed work ethic of West Virginia’s communities and citizens. The state is a critical part of our country through its natural resources, power production, agricultural products, and manufacturing industries. Numerous West Virginians have served our nation’s military ensuring freedom and peace. As West Virginians have helped our nation thrive, we need to return the favor and help these communities recover.
During the past month, several of West Virginia’s most rural communities have suffered from horrific flooding. Recorded as a thousand year flood, the floodwaters bulldozed through valleys, towns, and hillsides in multiple counties across central and southeastern West Virginia. The lives of 23 people were taken and homes, businesses, schools, libraries, and so much more were completely devastated.
In the midst of this massive tragedy, there is potential for triumph as long as we as a nation provide the financial support these citizens and communities need to thrive and contribute again.
Citizens are working hard to rebuild their homes, neighborhoods, and businesses. In one of West Virginia’s most affected communities, Rainelle, I toured the devastation. Once a beautiful, historic community, Rainelle’s central section and neighborhoods were ravaged by floodwaters. During the height of the flooding, people were stranded in the second floors of their homes and businesses as the water rushed through their town, taking cars, destroying storefronts, and moving homes off their foundations.
One particularly devastated place that we visited last week was a small, local business, Fruits of Labor. It is a phenomenal social enterprise/private business which focuses on employing women coming out of drug rehabilitation and/or incarceration, helping them to develop catering and bakery skills in a lively, downtown storefront. The dynamic business owner and entrepreneur, Tammy Jordan, recently shared her tragic flood experience. She and her team watched helpless as the flood waters crept up the stairs toward the second story of the business. She told us of how all of her employees lost their cars in the rushing waters. Prior to the flooding, she was in the midst of planning a business expansion in this community that needs jobs and strong economic investments. Her business took a major hit from the flood, delaying her dreams for growth.
But Tammy has not given up hope. She is rebuilding and has come a long way in the last month. As one person touring the site shared, “It is the best restaurant all around and gives our communities hope to rebuild and grow.” She shared her dream of not just restoring her bakery and café for the training program, but expanding by creating a training home for area students at a nearby location. This new site would serve newly homeless youth in our region, allowing them to live and train at Fruits of Labor. These youth are currently on the edges and could become incarcerated and/or addicted. They are desperately in need of an opportunity and West Virginia cannot afford to forget them.
Tammy is committed to providing quality employment, preventing further addiction/incarceration, and improving the community’s economic opportunity. Her company creates opportunities and hope for a community that so desperately needs support. “Every morning I tell God that if I show up that I hope he shows up,” said Tammy with tears in her eyes. “We have both kept our agreement. He always shows up.”
Right now, the plans are coming together for Fruits of Labor to recover, and so are the long-term recovery plans on the local and regional levels with many communities. To fully realize our recovery, West Virginia needs ongoing investments from local, state, and national foundations and corporations to ensure that businesses reopen, families can get into quality housing, and towns can thrive. These investments will ensure that West Virginia and its hard-working citizens triumph and return as a vital resource for our nation.
Help us leverage current support from local foundations, corporations, and individuals to provide:
Housing/livelihood support: Repairing/replacing homes, possessions and vehicles (all the legal processes, paperwork to get through all of these matters) plus case workers to coordinate this assistance and processes.
Basic human needs: Clothing, shelter, replenishment of household basics, baby supplies, HVAC, etc. Many people who work in nonprofits have also been directly affected and they are not able to recover themselves.
Infrastructure replacement/rebuilding: Roads, bridges (private and public), infrastructure (water, sewer, electric, broad band, etc.), and community spaces.
Business recovery: Grants for re-starting businesses by supporting facility renovation/replacement, replacing equipment/supplies/vehicles, making payroll, general expenses (rent, utilities, contracts, etc.), among other needs.
Personal health: Physical, mental and spiritual support.
Social profit sector rebuilding: For example, resources for schools, nonprofits, health and medical services, libraries, day care centers who have lost buildings, offices, supplies, equipment, payroll support, etc.
Long-term planning and management: Facilitating the recovery requires local management offices for case workers, planning, convening and access to resources for the next several years.
Please direct support to:
- Long-term recovery: Consult with Philanthropy West Virginia to be directed to particular counties in need.
- Families and home repair and personal bridge replacements: Contact West Virginia VOAD.
- Business Recovery: Contact the West Virginia Chamber Foundation.
- School Recovery: Contact West Virginia Education Alliance.
- Local Recovery Efforts: Visit Philanthropy West Virginia for flood recovery by county for gifts to a local community foundations and/or United Ways to support restoring nonprofits, daycares, community centers, libraries, etc.
Stay updated on the ongoing needs and progress and join our weekly #WVFloodRecovery teleconferences (Fridays at 12 noon) and the listserve for flood recovery news. Please register for both by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.