Programming for preparedness

Jan 15, 2011

Largest grant award to date assures perennial planning, coordination

The skills gained following the 2006 tornado and 2008 Flood have given United Way of Johnson County (UWJC) proven leadership experience in disaster recovery. United Way turned the knowledge into perpetual community resources: a countywide Disaster Community Impact Program, a Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD, pronounced CO-add) coalition and an Emergency Volunteer Center.

Community Foundation of Johnson County rewarded United Way with a $110,000 grant, the largest award since the Community Foundation formed 10 years ago.

Mike Stoffregen, executive director of the Community Foundation, says the Community Foundation has the means and processes in place to channel funding. "Working with our agency partners, the Foundation can ensure dollars are appropriately designated by quickly distributing endowed funds and charitable gifts to those most impacted by disasters."

Patti Fields, director of community impact at UWJC, says more than 30 organizations are involved in the newly-formed COAD coalition. "The coalition acts as an umbrella organization with cooperating partners planning appropriate responses for emergency situations that may arise."

The coalition includes local government, business representatives and nonprofit service providers.

During the 2008 Flood, the Emergency Volunteer Center connected 117 groups from outside Iowa and 57 local groups to assist with the flood aftermath. The center coordinated more than 1,200 volunteers who offered nearly 14,000 hours of service to respond to more than 300 resident requests and helped 162 households. Last year, a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer assisted UWJC with the development Emergency Volunteer Center training. Seventy-eight skilled, ready-to-respond volunteers have been trained.

In February 2010, Jill Schnoebelen, volunteer center coordinator, came on board. She says in the event of a disaster, Johnson County Emergency Management will activate the Emergency Volunteer Center. "It's a united effort. Our response depends on the type of disaster situation. We are more proactive than reactive.

"Our planning continues when we're not in response mode. Volunteer Center staff creates training scenarios and practices responses. Each time we train, we make adjustments to improve our reaction."

Spring, fall and winter are alert times for weather-related disasters – floods, tornados and ice storms. The Emergency Volunteer Center also trains volunteers to respond to bio-disaster emergencies.

Currently, UWJC has a signed agreement with Iowa City to manage disaster volunteers, and is coordinating similar arrangements with other Johnson County cities.

Christine Scheetz, president and CEO of United Way, says, "United Way greatly appreciates the Community Foundation's financial support and abiding partnership. Our entire community benefits from preparedness and training modules that give us the ability to react and respond immediately when needed."

Mike Stoffregen, executive director of the Community Foundation, says, "United Way is building a stronger community by connecting people to resources during a disaster. Their lasting efforts are improving lives in Johnson County."

Category: Partners Project