A Force for Good in Disaster Response

By Bill Driscoll Jr.

Volunteers from NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster serve side by side with AmeriCorps teams and other disaster response organizations to help communities in need.

AmeriCorps members and alumni are a source of continued and reliable strength for the country after disasters strike

Recently, I visited Long Island, NY, to gather with fellow NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster colleagues, volunteers, and our counterparts from other disaster and social services agencies. We have all been collaborating in order to serve those affected by Hurricane Sandy, primarily to repair and rebuild damaged homes. 

Hurricane Sandy came ashore 21 months ago and NECHAMA has been responding since day one. The gathering was to reflect upon our collective accomplishments and bid farewell to several colleagues moving on and others about to take a well-deserved vacation. 

NECHAMA consistently works alongside AmeriCorps after disaster events. In the last two years alone NECHAMA has hosted a dozen AmeriCorps teams in response to various floods, tornadoes and hurricanes across the country. 

A quick scan of the room revealed an important underlying story related to disaster recovery on Long Island since Sandy and one that is echoed around the United States following any catastrophe – the support of AmeriCorps.

The walls of the NECHAMA base were filled with group photos of AmeriCorps teams that each had spent four or more weeks hanging sheetrock and reconstructing damaged homes in partnership with our nonprofit.  Additionally, out of the seven NECHAMA employees in the room that night, five were AmeriCorps alumni having served in AmeriCorps NCCC, FEMA Corps, AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team, and other AmeriCorps State/National programs. In short, AmeriCorps is a source of continued and reliable strength for the country during the tough weeks and even years after disasters strike.

NECHAMA consistently works alongside AmeriCorps after disaster events. In the last two years alone NECHAMA has hosted a dozen AmeriCorps teams in response to various floods, tornadoes and hurricanes across the country. AmeriCorps teams are routinely deployed to provide staffing surge capacity to NECHAMA and other member organizations of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD). 

NECHAMA volunteers and AmeriCorps members smile for a group photo after a hard day’s work.

National VOAD is the forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle in the United States. NECHAMA has been involved in National VOAD activity for more than 10 years, and we are proudly one of 53 national member organizations.  The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), parent of AmeriCorps, is proudly counted as a National VOAD partner.

Whether it is days or years after a particular disaster, AmeriCorps members can be found all across the country supporting shelter operations, disaster case management, leading volunteers, repairing homes, and the list goes on. 

The experience and skills gained during a year of National Service with AmeriCorps lends itself to future employment in the disaster preparedness, response and recovery sector as well as other social services. AmeriCorps service is viewed by NECHAMA and many others as an important building block for personal development of emerging leaders, and one that in turn helps community development, especially post disaster. 

Bill Driscoll Jr. is a proud AmeriCorps alumus and Executive Director of NECHAMA, a voluntary organization that provides natural disaster preparedness, response, and recovery services nationwide. 

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Notes

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