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Disaster Response and Recovery

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This week, the Corporation for National and Community Service, elected officials, and community leaders are marking the contributions of Senior Corps volunteers across the country. In fact, more than 40 governors have issued proclamations for Senior Corps Week.

Six months ago, Hurricane Sandy struck communities all along the East Coast. In the aftermath of this devastating super storm, AmeriCorps and national service members trained in disaster response are proving to be a valuable and cost-efficient resource for America as they help victims and survivors begin to rebuild their lives.

Disasters like Hurricane Sandy not only cause physical damage, but they can leave confusion and anger in their wake for weeks and months. So it must have surprised FEMA Corps Team Leader Cassie Murray to be declared “an angel” only a few hours after she was angrily confronted by one of the storm's survivors.

Earlier this week I traveled to Joplin, Missouri, for a trip I will never forget. The Joplin story is one of a community that never gave up, that demonstrated steely resolve in the face of tragedy, and that is coming back stronger and better than before. It is also the story of volunteers – 130,000 strong and counting – whose selfless service has lifted up an entire community when it needed it most.

As residents returned to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, a group of young black Catholics from the Archdiocese of New Orleans formed the IMANI Team (IMANI meaning “faith” or “belief” in Swahilli), a youth group from black Catholic parishes and schools that united to serve the African-American community of the archdiocese, to encourage and to help rebuild a sense of spiritual community and renewal across the Crescent City. The efforts by this group of young leaders are being recognized with a 2012 Martin Luther King Drum Major for Service award.

To those who have lived through devastation as complete as a tornado, every minute following the horror of wind and chaos is a perpetual memorial to the many who did not survive to see the skies run clear again.

Just hours after a deadly EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, MO, in May 2011, AmeriCorps members began arriving to help with the recovery efforts. Now Missouri state officials are recognizing the national service volunteers who came to the city's aid after the devastating storm.

Eight months ago, one of the deadliest tornados in U.S. history touched down in Joplin, Missouri, and took the lives of more than 160 residents and destroyed thousands of homes. The federal response began immediately. Within hours, Federal Emergency Management Agency teams were on the ground to work hand in hand with state and local officials to assist in response and recovery.

Earthquakes, unlike other natural disasters, strike suddenly and don’t provide advanced warning time to prepare for their arrival. Knowing what to do if a quake happens can greatly reduce your risk of injury or death.

An additional 112 AmeriCorps members have deployed as part of the CNCS response to Hurricane Sandy, bringing the total of national service members on the ground to 877. These members are serving in six states and include the 41 FEMA Corps teams previously deployed. An additional 900 members standby for deployment.

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