DISASTER DECISIONS: Counting on volunteers

MISSISSIPPI (WCBI)- In Mississippi no one is a stranger in the wake of tragedy.

Neighbors help neighbors. Volunteers from around the U.S. and across the state, donate their time helping others rebuild.

They’re the hands that are behind rebuilding homes, communities, and helping restore peoples livelihood. Volunteers help lift the burden of those who’ve lost so much.

It’s the Mississippi standard. When tragedy strikes, people unite.

“Mississippi’s known for neighbor helping neighbor,” said Hubert Yates.

Hubert Yates is a part of Mississippi VOAD and assists in organizing volunteer efforts. He said volunteers are critical when it comes to rebuilding.

“That’s where the recovery takes place. The volunteers from the local community joined with others coming to help their neighbor, making an impact on their community making sure the most vulnerable aren’t left behind,” said Yates.

While we depend on volunteers, the number of weather events across the state and the U.S. puts a bit of a kink in the efforts to normalize lives that have been battered.

“We had two major hurricanes last year. Hurricanes on the Florida coast, the Carolina coast. In Mississippi alone, since the first of the year we’ve been working with three different floods and now tornado outbreaks that have us leading the nation with almost twice the number of tornadoes than we yearly average,” said Yates.

But volunteers still show up. A number of organizations from the state and the nation came to Columbus after the February tornado.

Winston County EMA Director Buddy King said volunteers help out in ways the government can’t. For example, the government can’t go on to private property.

“The local volunteer agencies have the ability to go on private property. Those who are insured, which really takes them out of the loop of MEMA or federal funding if they have insurance, but they can go in and supplement these private citizens cost through voluntary contributions of their time and efforts,” said King.

And if documented, the volunteer time is reimbursed by FEMA to the county in cash form.

“That’s exactly what a form of government needs is time of disaster,” said King.

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