“Not all those who wander are lost” J.R.R. Tolkien
I continue to be amazed at all that our member organizations are engaged in and get accomplished …and I love to get to share those stories with local, state, and federal emergency management and private sector partners. Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of traveling the country and talking to many of you about how we can improve collaboration, and coordination amongst our members. Strengthening the VOAD network is a constant focus for National VOAD, and my experiences in Texas, Florida, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico showed that we are doing just that.
In January, I was invited by Points of Light to share our volunteer engagement experience with the Corporate Service Council (CSC) – a group of corporations that are looking to engage their employees in meaningful ways in communities that have experienced disasters. This was followed by a meeting in Austin, TX to discuss disaster case management with many of our national members (TX VOAD, TX HHS, TDEM, FEMA). We were also joined by representatives from Puerto Rico interested in developing their case management processes for their survivors.
In February, several NVOAD members were invited to give a briefing for senior military staff atNORAD/USNORTHCOM in Colorado Springs and engage in dialogue about military assets working alongside voluntary agencies. The military leadership was particularly impressed at the scope of the capabilities of VOAD members, and your ability to put out quality situation reports. Our ability to seamlessly interact with different branches of government is an asset that we bring to our members and improves our network’s abilities on the ground.
From Texas, I was invited by the Florida VOAD to travel throughout the state to view the damage. I attended the Florida Governor’s Conference for Emergency Management, and met with Ken Skalitzsky from Volunteer Florida. Gabe Tischler of Catholic Charities hosted me for dinner, and Lesli Remaly of FEMA taught me everything I needed to know about local LTRGs. In addition, I had the opportunity to drive from Orlando, to St. Augustine, to Daytona Beach, the full length of the Florida Keys, and then back to Orlando – amazed by the amount and geography of the damage from the storms. These experiences show that a large, multi-layered network of State, National and Government partners is propagating the VOAD movement. Seeing this assures me the VOAD network is resilient and working.
I then traveled on invitation from FEMA to USVI to work with new LTRGs and assist in the reforming of St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John VOAD, and USVI VOAD. I met with our members on the ground – All Hands and Hearts, Lutheran Social Services, Episcopal Relief, Catholic Charities, UCC, and others who are working hard to bring some relief and recovery. Lots of assistance will be needed for many years and I thank the network of VOAD members currently on the ground for their dedicated attention to the needs of survivors.
March was speaking season. I was a panelist for the National Governor’s Association: Office of Best Practices, the National Council of Counties on Volunteer Engagement, and a think tank conversation on preparedness hosted by Concordia/AmeriCares. In addition, I also attended a Red Cross gathering regarding Canadian/Mexican cross border disaster response. Finally, I spoke at the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) forum. Everyone I spoke to at these events is interested in how to better engage with National VOAD members and include all of you in their response and recovery plans. Spreading our message in this way is a vital piece to growth for our association, and I was glad to hear that the National VOAD network is a crucial part of emergency plans across the country.
Finally, I traveled to Puerto Rico to meet with Puerto Rico VOAD and our members on the ground. While I was there, Puerto Rico VOAD and National VOAD collaborated on a gathering of members working in Puerto Rico to create relationships between local member organizations and national member groups. Promoting collaboration and communication on this level can be crucial to improving relief efforts and National VOAD is excited to play a part. During my time in Puerto Rico, National VOAD had exciting discussions surrounding building relationships for recovery with FEMA, the PR Manufacturers Association, PR Governor’s Office, PR Chaplain’s Association, and the PR Housing Authority!
There is no place that you are not welcome or needed! Please let me know how we can help get you connected…the work you do with survivors sets the foundation of everything we do. Thank you for the continued opportunity to make the 4C’s connect your capabilities to those in need.