A Promise to Care – Disaster Recovery Services
Long after the stories have left the headlines, LFCS cares through our Disaster Services.
Disasters are messy. Disasters are traumatic. Disasters are complicated. Recovery from disasters takes time and each recovery effort is unique. Some disasters get a lot of publicity, national notoriety, and well-intentioned people flocking in to help with response and recovery immediately following the event. Then you have disasters like the one that occurred in Pinhook Located in Southeastern Missouri, Pinhook was a town of about 50 residents. On May 2, 2011, a difficult decision was made to operate the Bird’s Point-New Madrid Floodway. A two mile wide opening was blown into the levee on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River in order to relieve high water levels in other areas on the river. This decision led to the small town of Pinhook being decimated by flooding, leaving the town and its residents homeless with no clear answers about what their next steps would be.
The decision to operate the floodway came just three weeks before the Joplin tornado, which quickly grabbed the headlines, national notoriety, and resources. Even though the attention had shifted from their community, Pinhook and its residents still had the daunting question to answer – how do we recover and what will this look like? Recovery for the community seemed overwhelming, but the residents of Pinhook were resilient and determined to make it happen.
Pinhook was a close knit community that wanted to rebuild their town in a new location with as many of its residents as possible staying together. The State of Missouri and many disaster partner agencies, including LFCS, began discussions about how to make this a reality. Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri took the lead in making sure that these families would once again be able to have a community to call their own. Catholic Charities searched to find land to rebuild the town and hit countless roadblocks along the way. Many disasters have occurred since May of 2011, each one calling for resources and time from the state and the agencies, thus pulling the attention away from the Pinhook recovery process.
In the Fall of 2017, after several years of trying to find a place to relocate, land was found and purchased outside of Sikeston, MO. A number of the households would be able to be built together in a neighborhood where they could once again have a community. Additional lots to build the remaining homes were found close in proximity to the other houses and positive momentum was finally building for this community almost seven years after they had lost their homes. Convoy of Hope collected building materials, Mennonite Disaster Services provided blue prints, Catholic Charities provided construction management, a group of Amish volunteers from Ohio provided volunteer labor to complete the construction for the homes, and many others step up to help as well.
On January 26, 2018, a ground breaking ceremony took place, moving these families one step closer to their long awaited recovery process. Manager of Disaster Services for LFCS, Ben Perrin, was honored to participate in this ceremony alongside many of the other disaster partners. In Pinhook, LFCS played a role in the recovery planning and participated where we were able to, but this story is about much more than that.
This is a story about strong, determined, resilient people not letting their voice go unheard. This is a story about the disaster community coming together in the recovery process even when the challenges seemed too great to overcome. This is a story about safety, well-being, and permanence and that is what disaster work is about. We care for the survivors after a disaster happens, we help them address the needs that exist as a result of that disaster, and we help them get back to the safety of their home – even if home looks different than it did before the storm. Sometime this spring, there will be more celebrations taking place outside of Sikeston – house warming parties for the residents of Pinhook as they settle in to their brand new homes.
LFCS has a unique opportunity to help families like those impacted by Pinhook and all of the other disasters in our state. We are helping to lead the way in Disaster Case Management and Long Term Recovery across the state of Missouri. We are able to help to establish best practices for aiding disaster impacted individuals and families and help set standards on how to better be prepared for disasters when they happen. We wouldn’t be able to do this work without the collaboration and dedication of our partners. Over the last year, LFCS has participated in many different disaster recoveries. From managing the Disaster Case Management grants for the State of Missouri for the December 2015 and Spring 2017 floods, to the tornados in Perryville, Goodman, Oakgrove, and most recently the tornado in Malden, MO, which happened on February 24, 2018. LFCS Disaster Services will continue to help the people of Missouri find safety, well-being, and permanence after a disaster.