When disaster strikes, it is devastating. Within the blink of an eye, lives can be shattered, homes and livelihoods compromised, and environmental destruction may change the landscape forever. There is barely time to think, much less organize a recovery plan that encompasses social services, emergency relief, medical assistance and many more needed services – without stepping on toes, duplicating efforts or adding to the confusion and stress.
In 2011, following the flooding brought on by Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene, The Luzerne Foundation took the lead in creating a coordinated effort to deal with a large -scale disaster. Working with the American Red Cross, FEMA and the United Way of Wyoming County, organizations from across the county were brought together to form the first long-term Disaster Recovery Coalition.
By January of 2012, a plan was in place that coordinated activities with FEMA and hundreds of calls were placed to affected homeowners. A Construction Committee and an Unmet Needs Committee were formed with representatives from organizations such as the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council, Luzerne County EMA, Family Service Association and Help Line, the United Ways of Wyoming Valley and Greater Hazleton, the American Red Cross, Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO), Salvation Army of Wilkes-Barre, and area churches including the Lutheran Disaster Response, Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church, Presbytery of Lackawanna and others. It was truly unprecedented.
The work of the 24-member Disaster Recovery Coalition continues today. Long-term case management is in place and the County is now prepared to put plans into action when the next disaster occurs. The Coalition received recognition as the Program of the Year by the Non-Profit Community Assistance Center in 2013, and in 2016 presented Best Practices on the Harvesting Program of the Pennsylvania Management Agency’s Annual Conference. The Luzerne Foundation still serves as an integral part of the team, particularly in uncovering funding resources to ensure sustainability.