One Year and $1M -- how United Way became a disaster relief agency overnight and
how we served Greenbrier County with almost $1 million in donations
Flood Relief Efforts
In the hours following the June 2016 flood, United Way of Greenbrier Valley was hands-on in the initial phase of relief efforts. Despite not being a disaster relief agency per se, United Way is an organization that responds to the needs of the communities it serves. So, our strategy was simple: do what United Way does. We examined the needs, determined the most effective and efficient way to help, rallied partners and resources, and deployed them.
Here is a snapshot of our role during the initial phase of disaster relief:
Phase 1: Working Together
In partnership with St. James' Episcopal Church, we opened the first flood relief distribution center for the area. With an easily accessible site not affected by the flood, the church was able to receive and organize truckloads of donations from all over the country. Vehicles loaded with flood relief items were quickly distributed to affected areas by hundreds of volunteers. We convened local partners to get hot meals to flood survivors and volunteers throughout the area as well.
With so many amazing people wanting to lend a helping hand, we coordinated hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of work. Volunteers from far and wide helped distribute water and food, organize donations, clean up/muck out houses, staff distribution sites, and fill in wherever needed. The immense needs could not have been met had it not been for all the selfless people who offered a helping hand.
In addition to those generous folks who gave supplies, time, and energy, there were donors who opened their hearts and their wallets to the United Way. More than 1,600 donors from across the country gave almost $1 million dollars to flood relief and recovery efforts. The work we were able to do over the past year was in large part due to the generosity of these caring contributors.
Phase 2: Addressing Immediate Needs
We knew there were immediate needs to address and used those generously donated flood relief funds to purchase supplies that were in high demand. $13,412.58 was spent on supplies such as: food, water, cleaning supplies, boots, gloves, masks, paper products, flashlights, batteries, lanterns, tarps, dehumidifiers, sump pumps, generators, totes, buckets, mops, brooms, squeegees, toiletries, and baby items.
With so many items being donated and more coming in every day, attention turned to needs outside of donated supplies and we worked with community leaders, churches, and volunteers to distribute hundreds of gift cards to flood survivors so they could purchase what they needed to make it through another day. $69,750 was spent on gift cards to Lowes, Kroger, Food Lion, Walmart, Shell, plus loaded Visa and MasterCard gift cards.
Hundreds of people were displaced in the Greenbrier Valley after the flood. Many stayed with friends and loved ones while others rented until they could move back into their homes. $24,976.96 was spent on rent and mortgage payments and utility bills.
Phase 3: Supporting Long-Term Recovery
Moving forward, we focused on long-term recovery efforts. We partnered with the Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee (GGLTRC) to support the committee’s efforts in rebuilding the Greenbrier Valley. United Way contributed $50,000 to GGLTRC for the support of a disaster program coordinator and two AmeriCorps VISTA members, all of whom focus on flood recovery in Greenbrier Valley. This partnership also included attending weekly Unmet Needs meetings where case managers presented cases to donors like United Way in order to help families rebuild their lives post-flood.
We teamed up with Appalachia Service Project in their effort to rebuild Rainelle. $175,000 went to ASP for the construction and/or repair of eight homes on the western end of Greenbrier County. UW also sponsored the demolition of 10 flood-damaged homes for $30,000 to make way for new builds. In addition to these new homes and the demolition of 10 damaged ones, we donated $10,000 toward the purchase of a new staff home for the owners of the Alderson Hospitality House, one of our partner agencies, as their home was completely destroyed.
As folks started to move back into new or repaired homes, we helped several families purchase big-ticket items such as kitchen appliances and furniture: $31,875.27.
Gateway Industries in Ronceverte is one of our community partners who was hit very hard by the flood. We committed $10,000 to helping this agency get back on its feet and serving those in need.
Repairs and rebuilding continue to be an ongoing effort. United Way provided financial assistance with the costs of materials and contractors for $90,266.07.
Homes weren't the only things destroyed in the flood. Many lost their vehicles as well. We purchased gently used vehicles for four flood affected families: 32,449.65
Rental Renewal Program
From the earliest days of recovery, United Way had been searching for ways to help flood survivors who lived in rentals at the time of the flood. To meet this need, we partnered with Homes for White Sulphur Springs and Main Street White Sulphur Springs to establish the United Way Rental Renewal Program. This unique partnership of three local organizations that provide flood recovery assistance throughout the Greenbrier Valley was designed specifically to support individuals and families who were renting their homes when the flood hit in June. It was United Way’s hope that this program would provide relief for families who had not yet benefited from the outpouring of support underway throughout the Valley. We contributed $250,000 to the Rental Renewal Program, allowing for three families to rent a home in Hope Village and six more to purchase homes.
Thank you for your support!
In total, $989,561.86 raised and $989,430.48 distributed in Greenbrier County to more than 460 flood affected families. United Way of Greenbrier Valley is beyond grateful for the volunteers, donors, and partnerships that made this past year possible!