The Citizen’s of Gulf County Recovery Team’s (CGCRT) role is to provide a coordinated community-wide response to rebuilding our community after Hurricane Michael. Our mission is to meet the needs of our most vulnerable, including the elderly, people with disabilities, veterans experiencing disability or homelessness, and those experiencing poverty. The Team seeks grants and other outside funding for materials and services to continue the long term process of rebuilding and recovery. In addition, the Team seeks to build strong partnerships and volunteer networks with organizations like the Salvation Army, United Way, the Methodist Caring Ministries, and Catholic Charities, as well as others that served and will serve our community in the event of any future disasters.
Many communities were impacted by Hurricane Michael, but every community has different resources and different needs. While county and state governments are responsible for rebuilding infrastructure, the CGCRT was formed to identify and address the needs of individuals and families, taking into account specific impacts in Gulf County, the demographics of our community, and the pre-existing strengths of the extraordinary community organizations, churches and volunteer groups already doing phenomenal work in Gulf County. In February 2019, an all-volunteer Board of Directors was elected following several public meetings. In April, the Team invited World Renew Disaster Response Services to Gulf County to conduct a community needs assessment. World Renew conducted 181 household interviews (about 3 percent of 5,340 FEMA registrants in the County). An estimated construction recovery cost for those 181 households alone was over $9 million dollars. This sample only scratches the surface of need, but the data confirms that Hurricane Michael impacted our most vulnerable populations the hardest, with 46% of those in need described as elderly, 27 percent with living with disabilities. Another 10 percent were single heads of household, and 15 percent were veterans in need of assistance.
The Recovery Team now consists of 236 members and partners, representing business leaders, faith-based organizations, social services, health care, mental health, family assistance, child care and disaster relief organizations, such as the United Way, Salvation Army, and American Red Cross, all working together to meet the needs of our most vulnerable, and to ensure that the recovery reaches everyone in need.
Board members have formed committees in the areas of Community Needs Assessment, Case Management, Construction Coordination, Volunteer Coordination, Finance and Donations, and Emotional and Spiritual Well-Being.
Coordination between committees is essential so that volunteers, materials and money all come together at the same time to repair or rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Michael. The CGCRT sets criteria to ensure those with the greatest needs are served first. Examples might include an individual who has exhausted all other means of paying for their repair and is elderly, disabled, a veteran or single head of household. Success is measured when the pieces of the puzzle come together at the same time. Grants must be secured to purchase and stage materials; disaster volunteer teams from out of state must be scheduled and housing for their stay secured. Local volunteers must be in place to host support, and supervise mission groups and work crews, and the construction coordinator must ensure permits are in place and tools and supplies are available. It takes a lot of background work to make sure all of this happens smoothly. The CGCRT team has been working tirelessly to set these systems up with the help of disaster training and mentoring agencies such as The Disaster Leadership Team, the Be Ready Alliance for Coordinating of Emergencies, United Way and the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, and is close to beginning this work. It has taken months to develop and will be ongoing for years to come.
The Team welcomes your participation. Recovery Team Board meetings are open to the public. Board business is conducted the second Wednesday of the month, from 12-1:30 p.m. EST at the Gulf County Health Department on Garrison Avenue Meetings on the fourth Wednesday (also from 12-1:30 p.m. EST) are dedicated to community outreach and collaboration and will have committee updates and opportunity for the partners and citizens alike to provide feedback and ask questions. The dates and locations for upcoming meetings are:
• Aug. 28 - Gulf Coast State College
• Sept. 25 - First United Methodist Church - Wewahitchka - 12-1:30 p.m. CT