Disaster response and recovery requires organizations and people to work together. With two concurrent disasters, our collaborations and partnerships are now more important than ever.
In the days following the derecho, countless community members were without power, food, water, and shelter. To get supplies, funds, and volunteers where they were needed most, a number of local groups coordinated their efforts.
“We have the structure in place, so when our community is faced with a disaster, we can respond to community needs,” said Elizabeth Cwik, Senior Program Officer at the Community Foundation. Elizabeth also serves as vice-chair of the Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster (LAP-AID), a group of over 30 health and human service providers, government agencies, funders, and faith-based organizations divided into 14 teams. “We coordinate our work to make sure the community’s short-term and long-term recovery needs are being addressed through the network.”
LAP-AID was formed when community leaders recognized the potential benefits of recovery networks after the 2008 flood. The group’s goal is to expedite response, improve management of volunteers and donations, and provide resources for long-term recovery. Participating in LAP-AID allows the Community Foundation to identify areas where funding is most needed. When the Disaster Recovery Fund began making grants just days after the derecho, information gathered through daily LAP-AID meetings ensured the grants were addressing unmet needs.
The Community Foundation also utilizes the Nonprofit Network as a key source of information during this time of increased need. Nonprofit Network peer groups meet regularly to discuss trends, challenges, and opportunities.
“In the last few months, we’ve seen the true benefits of keeping all nonprofit organizations connected,” said Carrie Walker, Nonprofit Network Manager. “Organizations faced serious challenges without access to communication, power, and internet for an extended period, while also likely dealing with damage at employees’ homes. The support our nonprofit community provides for each other will make a big difference in our long-term recovery efforts.”
This established line of communication among nonprofits also helped when the Community Foundation was asked to convene nonprofits to share their needs with Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst who visited Cedar Rapids on September 2. This roundtable discussion featured leaders from 20 local nonprofits and allowed them to describe the challenges the sector is currently facing.
Sofia Mehaffey, Director of Meals on Wheels at Horizons told the Senators, “We unfortunately lost 4,000 prepared frozen meals and over a ton of food that was in the freezer and cooler.” Sofia and other nonprofit leaders described the difficulties of providing services during the pandemic and the added challenges of maintaining operations in the wake of the derecho.
To address the wide range of needs in the most efficient way possible, the Community Foundation remains in contact with other local funders and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. By sharing information and experiences, these organizations can make sure community needs are being identified and addressed.
“We have a long road ahead of us,” Elizabeth said. “But in a way, this is familiar territory. The people of Linn County know how to work together, and the partnerships throughout our community will help us rebuild, recover and thrive.”
For more information about LAP-AID and community resources, click here.