News and Tribune

March 2012 tornado coverage

April 5, 2012

Group gets long-term recovery efforts under way

Disaster recovery center to close next week

CHARLESTOWN — A long-term recovery committee met at the Clark County 4-H fairgrounds Thursday to help organize the sustained recovery effort for those affected by the March 2 tornadoes.

At the outset of the meeting, a vote was taken to select a chair and vice chair for the steering committee. It was an unusual election, and reflective of the volunteer effort to-date, as two candidates for chairman, Kevin Cooley and Jim Furber, both offered their support to a third candidate Rich Cheek.

“I would be honored to be the chair and continue my work, but the truth is my heart is with one other person that is a candidate, who as far as I’m concerned, deserves to be chair,” Furber said, referring to Cheek.

Cheek, the senior pastor at Henryville Community Church, has been organizing assistance efforts at the church and the Henryville Community Center since the tornado hit the area more than a month ago.

After being chosen as the steering committee chairman Cheek thanked those in attendance and said, “I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”

Mary Sullivan, manager of corporate volunteer services and disasters for the Metro United Way, who was chosen as the vice-chairwoman for the steering committee also lauded the show of support when choosing a chairman.

“I think that’s the way this community has pulled together,” she said. “We’ve had a great focus, a great effort, but in the end we want to make sure the best people are leading the effort.”

Sullivan, after the votes were taken, provided a recap of the volunteers that have signed up through the Metro United Way volunteer reception center that has moved and is now located at Henryville Community Church.

She said the United Way has registered 6,420 volunteers, who have logged about 35,404 hours of work, which totaled about $748,454 of in-kind contributions toward the clean up.

Ellis Davis, voluntary agency liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provided his own update on the number of people who have signed up for assistance through FEMA.

He said 1,323 registrations for FEMA aid have been made, $1.13 million has already been disbursed and about 20 families have received the maximum grant amount from FEMA.

But Davis said another federal program is being under-utilized.

About 974 Small Business Administration loan applications have been sent out, but only 69 have been returned. Of those returned, 14 were approved at a total value of $710,000.

“That’s one of the lowest returns of applications around and that is a problem for this committee if we don’t get more returns,” said Steve Cain, president of Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

SBA low interest disaster loans are available to help homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations fund, repair or rebuild and may cover the cost of replacing lost or damaged personal property or business assets, according to a press release. These loans may cover insurance deductibles, code-required upgrades and other costs not covered by insurance or other sources.

“I think we need to keep the message simple: return the app[lication],” Cain said. “You don’t have to take the loan if you get approved. You can still turn it down, but you’ve got to return the app[lication] to get to the next phase and a lot of people are missing out on a lot.”

A question from the audience offered that some people are having difficulty filling out the complex form.

Cain said those with questions can still go to the disaster recovery center set up at Ivy Tech Community College, in Sellersburg, and a representative with the SBA will help walk them through the form.

However, a press release sent out earlier Thursday morning announced the disaster recovery center will only be open for one more week. It is set to close April 13, but residents can still register by phone or online up until May 8.

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