(WBNG Binghamton -- United Way of Broome County news release) In September 2011, Hurricane Lee brought historic flooding and wide-spread devastation to our community. Homes, vehicles, and countless irreplaceable personal belongings were lost. People were confronted with decisions and challenges they never imagined they would face. Businesses were forced to close; some never reopened. In the blink of an eye, millions of dollars of damage had been inflicted on our region.
Behind all of these numbers, lie the stories of the individuals and families that lived through this disaster:
After being informed the flood of 2006 had not affected their street, a family in Vestal found their new home under 15 feet of water in 2011. In addition to the loss of countless personal belongings, the family was also defrauded by an unscrupulous contractor during rebuilding efforts. They were ultimately able to find trustworthy assistance through Catholic Charities and United Way, supported by donations from the community.
An Endicott family of six had struggled through significant financial and personal strain as a result of being displaced and living in four different homes in the months following the flood while they sought out assistance with construction. After being denied a loan through the Small Business Association, they were able to obtain financial assistance from the locally established fund and start on the road to recovery.
A 39-year old single mother of two in Vestal saw the waters rise nearly four feet in the ranch home she had owned for only two years. She received a small insurance payment and used her limited income to complete a significant amount of work. When funds were exhausted with much left to be done, she was able to turn to community contributions to continue with rebuilding her life.
A Johnson City family with two children and an elderly grandparent in the home found themselves displaced and trying to stretch the funds they received from FEMA and their insurance company to rebuild their home. When it was clear the work would be more extensive than they could afford, they were able to turn to the community donations distributed by United Way. To make the most of the dollars available, a volunteer group was recruited to offer free labor and the only expense was materials.
Then there is the story of our community: The swift and generous response of local residents; people lending their time, talents, and resources to help their neighbors. United Way was entrusted with overseeing the management of incoming flood recovery donations and distribution to residents, including the families mentioned above.
Through contributions from local residents, businesses, and foundations, United Way of Broome County has collected over $960,000. In its role as the fiscal agent overseeing the funds, United Way is not applying any management fees to donations; 100% of donated dollars are distributed to individuals affected by the flood.
A community coalition, Broome County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (BCCOAD) took the lead in establishing a system to utilize funds responsibly. BCCOAD’s purpose is to bring human services organizations together to plan for and respond to disasters. As a member of this partnership, Catholic Charities of Broome County has played a critical role in the process, offering personalized case management services to individuals and families requesting assistance. With such a widespread need, BCCOAD’s partnership has been instrumental in ensuring funds are dispersed in a sensible, efficient manner and has maximized the impact of donated dollars. Each individual request for funds is carefully reviewed by a Catholic Charities case manager and a BCCOAD committee prior to approval.
To date, BCCOAD has awarded a total of $954,205 to local residents. This has provided new windows, flooring, appliances, furnaces, plumbing, electrical work, and other basic services to local households. In total, 155 households have received assistance with immediate short-term needs, while 96 households have obtained relief with larger scale, long-term recovery efforts. A total of 251 households and 251 stories like those mentioned earlier.
BCCOAD is currently reviewing over 70 open cases from homeowners requesting funding assistance, people hoping to be able to tell their own success stories. BCCOAD, United Way, Catholic Charities, and our community partners remain fully committed to ongoing rebuilding efforts; we offer our thanks to all in the community who have helped make a difference in the lives of their friends and neighbors.