In Fulton and Montgomery counties in upstate New York, long-term recovery following 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene was floundering until four members of the Fulton Montgomery Long-Term Recovery Group took the CWS Recovery Tools and Training workshop.
The group didn't exist before Irene. After the storm, it took a long time to get organized. A small group limped along for a year, but they persisted until they enlisted others in the cause.
The group had not been able to raise any funds or organize any work days until after they got the CWS training last August. Thanks to the training, they have been able to organize grassroots help for their neighbors affected by Irene flooding. This past April, the group had its first work day.
CWS's Joann Hale taught about working at two levels: first, locally, to enlist other ministers in other congregations in your town; second, to encourage them to reach out to their national offices, which may have resources to contribute to long-term recovery.
During the CWS training, one of the Fulton Montgomery Long-Term Recovery Group leaders shared how hard she had found it getting going. Joann paused the training session and gave focused attention to that speaker to allow her to share more details about the challenges. It seemed to me that by Joann allowing this person to share with the entire group, and everyone present listened respectfully and lent their empathy, there was some progress toward healing going on right there and planting seeds of hope.
The CWS workshops reinforce the importance of cooperation among local faith-based and other community partners and the denominations. Since disasters are overwhelming and bigger than any one group can handle, we must work together. There are never enough funds or volunteers. We want the dollars and volunteer time we spend to help the people who need it most, by group consensus. You have to decide who you are going to focus on. The importance of doing that, and the detailed step-by-step process for doing that, have been completely reinforced through the CWS Recovery Tools and Training workshop. There are so many inequalities already present in society and we do not want to make it worse.
The CWS training is amazing bang for the buck, such good stewardship of CWS scarce dollars. This part of CWS's work deserves much more attention both inside and outside of CWS. You do such a good job, and you help so many people.
The Fulton Montgomery region had another flood June 28, with two fatalities in Montgomery County. Because the long-term recovery group was already active, it was able to do early response beginning that very day. It's a miracle. It's a miracle.
For the past year, the Rev. Leslie Foltz-Morrison, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister, has been the co-chair of the Albany (N.Y.) Presbytery's Disaster Response Task Force. She recently began working for the Elizabeth, N.J., Presbytery, in Superstorm Sandy response.