The committee is addressing an evolving list of needs from about 130 cases. The needs, representing those of both individuals and families, range from appliance purchases to new home construction projects.
Sorting through it all are Pat Meadors and Ralph Riddle, stationed at an office in Alexandria where they spend their weekdays assessing cases.
“We’re here to help these people as much as possible,” Riddle said.
It’s their job to determine who needs what help and why. The pair then turn their findings over the Long Term Recovery Committee, which assesses their findings to determine where to commit financial resources.
The long list reveals that the most common needs are debris removal and shingle replacement. But other needs are regularly discovered. Some people and families are still without basic appliances, furniture and other goods. Others are still without adequate housing.
When Meadors and Riddle began their work in October, they had about 50 case files. Eventually that number grew to about 180 as victims discovered the assistance was available.
The number of cases fell as needs were met; about 40 cases have been closed, Riddle said. But other needs persist and it’s up to Meadors and Riddle to identify them.
The process is a revolving one. A victim first has to establish a case, which can only be done with paperwork from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Then Meadors and Riddle determine how much help the victim has received from the government and from insurance.
After that they try to assess the victim’s remaining needs. First they make sure the person has access to food and shelter, then they determine what the person’s living conditions were before the storm, what the living conditions were after the storm, how many members are in each family and how the storm affected their lives, Riddle said.
They hear stories about families who can’t afford propane to heat their homes, others who sit atop overturned five-gallon buckets because the storm swept their furniture away and still some who have leaky roofs.
“Some of these people really can’t do for themselves,” Meadors said.
The majority of the requests, however, are for debris removal and roof repairs. Some days, a single case update can consume all of their time, while on other days Riddle and Meadors are able to knock out half a dozen, they said.
It depends on the need, or needs, of the applicant, they said.
The recovery committee then reviews the information at regular meetings. From there, the committee commits resources, in the form of either money or volunteer help.
From the 180 cases the committee began with, about a dozen homes have been completely rebuilt and about a dozen more remain, Riddle said. That work is done with volunteer assistance from the Calhoun County Baptist Association and First Baptist Williams Church.
It’ll likely be some time more before the work is done.
“Are we going to be done with this in weeks? No. Are we going to be done with this in months? No,” Riddle said. “These people’s lives will never return to what they were before April 27.”
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544.