VOAD gears up to coordinate assistance for tornado victims

Published 11:00 pm Monday, December 31, 2012

Annette Brundidge stands in front of her family’s home. The roof of the mobile home off of County Road 2214 was ripped away by an EF-2 tornado on Christmas night while the family was inside. Brundidge said neighbors, family and friends have helped the Brundidges begin to recover.

Pike County does not meet the financial threshold to receive a FEMA declaration so the county will have to seek funding from other sources.

Jeanna Barnes, Pike County EMA director, informed those who gathered for the Pike County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) meeting on Monday that there would be no FEMA funds to assist the families that received minimal to total losses in the two tornadoes that hit Pike County on Christmas Day.

Barnes said those affected could receive funding from a SBA declaration, which provides low interest loans with long-term payments. These funds must be applied for individually by the victims of the tornadoes.

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“There is also the possibility of available funds through Serve Alabama and the Governor’s Relief Fund,” Barnes said.

The tornado victims can learn more about the assistance programs through the local Red Cross and EMA offices.

The purpose of the VOAD meeting on Monday was to coordinate access and assistance for the families that were affected by the tornadoes.

Barnes said an EF-1 tornado with 110-mph winds cut a four-mile, 300-yard wide path through the Tennille community and an EF-2 tornado packed 129 mph winds that destroyed homes and property along a 15.7-mile, 600-yard path from Goshen to Troy.

“The Red Cross figures are 66 total structures damaged,” Barnes said. “Twelve were totally destroyed, 24 received major damage, 18 minor damage and 10 minimal damage.”

Lawrence Bowden, VOAD chair, said that the county will be working with limited resources and efforts must be made to make sure the immediate needs of the families are met but not duplicated.

“We want to make sure that we provide assistance to all of those who are in need,” Bowden said.

Jane Thrash, director of the South Central Alabama (Pike County) Branch of the American Red Cross, said 27 of the structures damaged were uninsured and others are possibly underinsured.

“Some people have lost everything,” Thrash said. “They have no insurance and have no way to replace what they lost. The situation is very serious for these tornado victims.”

The Unmet Needs Committee, a local committee of volunteers, is also available to provide assistance to the tornado victims.

However, Bowden said that the best and most efficient way for individuals to volunteer is through an organization.

“Organized and coordinated efforts are the best way to help these people in need,” he said.

“But what is needed most is money. Money does the most good because the tornado victims can go and buy what they need. That helps them and it also puts money into the local economy.”

Bowden gave the example of more items being donated to Florida disaster victims than were needed or could be used. The state had to spend a million dollars to dispose of the items.

“Money can be used where it’s needed and you don’t end up having items that are of no use,” Bowden said.

The Salvation Army Service Center and Christian Mission in Troy are providing clothing and home furnishings to tornado victims who have vouchers from the Red Cross.

Thrash said the Red Cross had already spent $14,775 in victims’ assistance and the Emergency Response Vehicles have delivered cleanup kits that contain rakes, shovels and indoor cleaning supplies and comfort kits that contain hygiene products to the tornado victims.

As far as debris collection, the City of Troy will pick up debris that is placed on city streets, but no word has come from the Pike County Commission as to debris pickup in the county.