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Flood relief efforts underway
System in place to coordinate volunteers with victims
flooded basement
With storms abating for a while, area residents can start to think about cleaning up the soggy mess left behind. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Who do you call?

Volunteers wanting to help flood victims, and flood victims needing help are all asked to call RSVP of Central Kansas at 620-792-1614. RSVP, United Way of Central Kansas, Barton County and other groups have been working to coordinate relief efforts.

Although the forecast calls for chance of showers over the weekend, the Golden Belt has experienced a few days of clear weather. It has been a chance for deluged residents to assess the soggy damage done by the flooding and start to seek help for recovery. 

But, who do they call and where to they go?

That question is being addressed by a cadre of local agencies scrambling to muster a relief effort. Barton County officials, United Way of Central Kansas, RSVP of Central Kansas and a host of other groups spent much of the past few days stitching resources together.

“There are a lot of people out there who need help,” said UWCK Executive Director Gaila Demel. Who they are, how many there are and just what they need have yet to be determined.

Unfortunately, as calls are starting to trickle in for help, many folks still have standing water in their basements or flooding their homes. They may not be ready for clean-up, but they still have many immediate needs, Demel said.

And, there is a whole team at work.

Barton County Emergency Manager Amy Miller is starting to receive some requests for help. In fact, currently there are two residents who need someone to help move carpet and items out of their water filled basements.  

RSVP of Central Kansas Director Linn Hogg is in the beginning process of determining volunteer groups for requests for physical assistance. Her office has become the clearing house for coordinating volunteer efforts.

But, it is not as simple as it sounds, Hogg said. First, a central point of contact had to be established, a one-stop shop so to speak, where volunteers and those in need can connect.

And, there needs to be a vetting process so that only legitimate volunteers link up with those really in need. “It’s all about the safety of all parties,” Hogg said.

Who to call

Hogg said they have streamlined how they are handling those who want to volunteer and those who need the volunteers.

• Anyone wanting to help is asked to call RSVP at 620-792-1614. They will be asked their name, address, phone number and social security number (so an abbreviated background check can be performed).

They will also need to fill out a short registration form making them eligible for supplemental insurance while they are volunteering. In addition, they must sign a release form.

• Those needing help are to call the same number. They will be asked their name, address, phone number, age and what their needs are.

“We will help them on a first-come-first-serve basis as volunteers become available,” Hogg said. “We ask that people bear in mind that we have several people in this community who are older and have family who desperately need help. We will try to prioritize them.”

• Organizations, agencies or groups of people wanting to volunteer should also call RSVP. They need to let RSVP know how many volunteers they have and what they can and are willing to do. This way, what is being done and what needs are being met can be tracked.

It all sounds daunting, Demel said. Even with all the planning in the world, each emergency presents new challenges to overcome, and all those involved are learning from this experience.