BELLE, W.VA. — Even during snow and ice storms in many parts of the state, West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD) and its member agencies are working in several counties to build new homes for survivors of the June 2016 flood. WV VOAD and its member agencies have built and funded new homes in all 11 counties where flood damage occurred, and repair projects in all those counties are ongoing. Right now, volunteers are on site and have been working throughout the winter in Kanawha, Clay, Nicholas and Greenbrier counties building new homes for 10 families who were displaced. Construction work is ongoing or about to be completed on homes in Clendenin, Richwood, White Sulphur Springs, Caldwell, Rainelle and Procious.
All these homes, which range from 900 square feet to 1,100 square feet in size, have been funded by donations and built by volunteer labor even as snow flies and temperatures have dropped below freezing. Continuing the building process over the winter was difficult, but important to help get families back into safe, secure and sanitary housing and get their lives back together as quickly as possible. It took plenty of logistical planning and cooperation between WV VOAD and its member agencies.
“Our volunteer teams spent time at the end of last year, before the ground froze, doing as much prep work as possible, digging foundations and getting sites ready so we could do the finishing work even when weather was bad,” said Cathy Rennard, Disaster Case Management Supervisor for WV VOAD.Volunteers with WV VOAD’s member agencies have come from around the country, as far as Kansas, Michigan, Maine and Illinois, to help with these particular rebuilding projects. “Volunteers understand that when they come to West Virginia in the winter months, there is going to be snow on the ground,” said Sara Hambrick, WV VOAD Disaster Case Manager Supervisor. “They aren’t here to sit in hotel rooms. They are here to work, and when they’re here, they just want to accomplish as much as they possibly can.”
At times, when weather-related challenges occur, local volunteers and officials with county long-term recovery groups step in to assist with transportation and other logistical issues. WV VOAD and its member agencies have been on the ground since the June 2016 flood assisting with cleanup, rebuilding and with the long-term recovery needs of survivors. The flood, which left 23 people dead and more than 3,000 homes destroyed, was declared a federal disaster.
“Logistically, it takes time to work through the cases based on the vulnerability of the clients,” Rennard said. “The majority of these flood survivors have had multiple challenges to work through, from financial hardship to age and physical disabilities.” Each new home that’s now being built costs between $55,000 and $70,000. Families were required to invest any money they received in federal grants in the construction and the rest came from private donations, philanthropic foundations and contributions from WV VOAD member agencies.
“A lot of hard work is being done around the state and we appreciate all of our voluntary organizations and their dedication to work with us during the winter months,” WV VOAD Executive Director Jenny Gannaway said. “Our goal is to stay focused on the families so that every family is back in safe, secure and sanitary housing.”