April 8, 2014

CWS Grants, Training Strengthen Colorado’s Flood Recovery

This Salina, Colo., home has been in the middle of the creek since the September 2013 severe floods. There are still mattresses, bed frames, clothing and more spread throughout the area. Photo: Gabi Boerkircher

Church World Service grants and training are helping hundreds of Colorado households still struggling to recover from severe flooding last September by undergirding community-based work. 

Local long-term recovery committees say the $5,000 undesignated grants from CWS help significantly with costs not covered by donations designated for survivors’ material needs.

For example, CWS approved a grant to the Greeley, Colo.-based Weld Recovers, the Weld County Community Recovery Committee, which is “counting on the grant to assist with operational costs of having to pay rent for office space for case management.  We have no other resource for administrative costs,” said Sandi Meier, who heads Weld Recovers.

“At least 200 Weld County families are still severely impacted as a result of the flooding,” Meier said.  “Many are low-income, Spanish speaking and/or undocumented.  Most lived in mobile homes, which along with everything they owned were washed away by flood waters.  In all, we have more than 300 cases waiting to be worked.  World Renew assessed 206 surviving households and estimated their outstanding unmet needs at close to $17 million.”

CWS also approved grants for the Boulder County Long-Term Flood Recovery Group, for “the administrative supplies needed in the management office,” and the Estes Valley Long-Term Recovery Group in Larimer County.  The latter asked for the funds “to help offset start-up costs including rent, utilities, internet, phone, office supplies, equipment, furniture, file cabinets, etc.”

Additional CWS support for flood recovery in Colorado came in the form of “Recovery Tools and Training” workshops in Weld, Boulder and Larimer counties last December.

Sue Anderson is Manager of Boulder County’s Long-Term Flood Recovery Group, based in Boulder, Colo.  She said the group expects to assist at least 800 to 900 households, most of them in the county’s flood-inundated mountain foothills and canyons.

“Early on, we triaged clients threatened with hunger or homelessness to local social services providers and were able to provide assistance with gas and grocery cards,” Anderson said.  “Now we are releasing funds to support applicants with a variety of unmet needs.

“Typically, people who already were close to the edge financially before the flood now need help with a past-due bill or major appliance like a propane heater in order to stay in their home, condominium or rental.   For example, one client’s house had minor damage, but the water system got wiped out, so we funded a water purification system so she could get back home.

”A number of people lost both their homes and their home-based businesses, or lost jobs when they missed several days of work due to the floods.  Some need relatively minor repairs but don’t meet income qualifications for government assistance and cannot quite afford the repairs on their own.”

Anderson said the CWS-organized “Recovery Tools and Training” gave participants a helpful inventory of voluntary organizations that offer disaster assistance, and how to work with them to help flood survivors with clean up, repairs, rebuilding and other needs not covered by insurance, private or government resources.

Julie Phillips, the group’s volunteer manager, said she regularly refers to the training manual and has followed up with most of the groups that gave presentations at the training, including the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Lutheran Disaster Response and World Renew.

“UMCOR is the expert on disaster case management, which among other things identifies households that need volunteers’ help,” she learned.  “PDA has guidelines around volunteer housing.  LDR is great on construction management.  World Renew came out to do the needs assessment.  And they all have member congregations that can contribute – and host – volunteers.”

Sandi Meier in Greeley echoed that members of her volunteer management committee “especially got a huge amount out of the CWS training.  Now they finally have it on their radar that they have to find places for volunteers from out of town to sleep, and they need to feed them!”