One year and $1M – how United Way became a disaster relief agency overnight and how they served Greenbrier Co. with almost $1M in donations

In the hours following the June 2016 flood, United Way of Greenbrier Valley was hands-on in the initial phase of relief efforts.

Despite not being a disaster relief agency per se, United Way is an organization that responds to the needs of the communities it serves. So, their strategy was simple: do what United Way does. They examined the needs, determined the most effective and efficient way to help, rallied partners and resources, and deployed them.

In partnership with St. James’ Episcopal Church, United Way opened the first flood relief distribution center for the area. With an easily accessible site not affected by the flood, the church was able to receive and organize truckloads of donations from all over the country. Vehicles loaded with flood relief items were quickly distributed to affected areas by hundreds of volunteers. United Way convened local partners to get hot meals to flood survivors and volunteers throughout the area as well.

With so many amazing people wanting to lend a helping hand, United Way coordinated hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of work. Volunteers from far and wide helped distribute water and food, organize donations, clean up/muck out houses, staff distribution sites, and fill in wherever needed. The immense needs could not have been met had it not been for all the selfless people who offered a helping hand.

In addition to those generous folks who gave supplies, time, and energy, there were donors who opened their hearts and their wallets to the United Way. More than 1,600 donors from across the country gave almost $1 million dollars to flood relief and recovery efforts. The work United Way was able to do over the past year was in large part due to the generosity of these caring contributors.

United Way knew there were immediate needs to address and used those generously donated flood relief funds to purchase additional supplies that were in high demand. $13,412.58 was spent on supplies such as food, water, cleaning supplies, boots, gloves, masks, paper products, flashlights, batteries, lanterns, tarps, dehumidifiers, sump pumps, generators, totes, buckets, mops, brooms, squeegees, toiletries, and baby items.

With so many items being donated and more coming in every day, attention turned to needs outside of donated supplies, and United Way worked with community leaders, churches, and volunteers to distribute hundreds of gift cards to flood survivors so they could purchase what they needed to make it through another day. A total of $69,750 was spent on gift cards to Lowes, Kroger, Food Lion, Walmart, and Shell. Preloaded Visa and MasterCard gift cards were distributed as well.

Hundreds of people were displaced in the Greenbrier Valley after the flood. Many stayed with friends and loved ones while others rented until they could move back into their homes. A total of $24,976.96 was spent on rent and mortgage payments and utility bills.

Moving forward, United Way focused on long-term recovery efforts. They partnered with the Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee (GGLTRC) to support the committee’s efforts in rebuilding the Greenbrier Valley. United Way contributed $50,000 to GGLTRC for the support of a disaster program coordinator and two AmeriCorps VISTA members, all of whom focused on flood recovery in Greenbrier Valley. This partnership also included attending weekly Unmet Needs meetings, where case managers presented cases to donors like United Way in order to help families rebuild their lives post-flood.

United Way teamed up with Appalachia Service Project in their effort to rebuild Rainelle. One hundred seventy-five thousand dollars went to ASP for the construction and/or repair of eight homes on the western end of Greenbrier County. UW also sponsored the demolition of 10 flood-damaged homes for $30,000 to make way for new builds.

As folks started to move back into new or repaired homes, United Way helped several families purchase big-ticket items such as kitchen appliances and furniture: $31,875.27.

Gateway Industries in Ronceverte and Alderson Hospitality House in Alderson are two United Way community partners who were both hit hard by the flood. United Way committed $20,000 to helping these agencies get back to serving those in need.

Repairs and rebuilding continue to be an ongoing effort. United Way provided financial assistance with the costs of materials and contractors for $90,266.07.

Homes weren’t the only things destroyed in the flood. Many lost their vehicles as well. United Way purchased gently used vehicles for four flood affected families, spending $32,449.65

From the earliest days of recovery, United Way had been searching for ways to help flood survivors who lived in rentals at the time of the flood. To meet this need, United Way of Greenbrier Valley partnered with Homes for White Sulphur Springs and Main Street White Sulphur Springs to establish the United Way Rental Renewal Program. This unique partnership of three local organizations that provide flood recovery assistance throughout the Greenbrier Valley was designed specifically to support individuals and families who were renting their homes when the flood hit in June. It was United Way’s hope that this program would provide relief for families who had not yet benefited from the outpouring of support underway throughout the Valley. UW contributed $250,000 to the Rental Renewal Program, allowing for three families to rent a home in Hope Village and six more to purchase homes.

In total, $989,561.86 raised and $989,430.48 distributed in Greenbrier County to more than 460 flood affected families. United Way is beyond grateful for the volunteers, donors, and partnerships that made this part year possible.

To donate to the on-going flood recovery efforts, visit Greater Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery Committee at www.ggltrc.org.

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