Reaching the community has from the outset been a focus of the Gulf County Citizens Long-Term Recovery Committee.

The committee hit a key milestone in the past 10 days.

A new website, www.recovergulf.org provides a portal into the committee’s work as well a pathway for citizens with unmet needs to apply for assistance.

The website provides a description of the Recovery Committee, comprised entirely of volunteers, as well as plenty of photos and background about Hurricane Michael.

The website also provides opportunities for groups and individuals to volunteer to assist the committee as it moves forward.

Most importantly, there is also a link to a form that folks with remaining unmet needs may fill out, the information held in strict confidence, to seek assistance from the committee.

In time, another central focus of the website will be celebrating the successes to come as the committee’s work unfolds.

The committee is also reviewing policies for assessing assistance needs, a kind of rubric to prioritize and categorize the unmet needs across the county.

In just one survey, by World Renew, the estimated cost of meeting the remaining unmet needs in the county was over $9 million.

And, the committee members acknowledged, that survey likely identified the tip of the mountain of needs remaining for individual households in the county.

The committee is also preparing for the labor that lies ahead, with an agreement pending with the Port St. Joe Port Authority to lease warehouse space at the former Arizona Chemical site.

Grant funding for two key positions, an executive director and construction manager, are also in the pipeline, with the Volunteer Florida and the Florida Presbyterian Church providing the support.

And the committee is crafting a host of protocols for hiring key employees, managing volunteer hours and workloads, case management protocols and establishing the infrastructure for handling grant funding.

But, much of the work ahead is pending the non-profit 501 c 3 and incorporation status the committee needs to enter into the partnerships and accept grant funding that will provide so much of the heavy lifting.

And, that non-profit application provided a short lesson last week in understanding how the county was at a deficit with no direct representation in the Florida House during the this year’s legislative session.

In a phone call to a committee member, Rep. Jason Shoaf, newly-elected to the District 7 during a special election this summer, noted that Bay County’s Recovery Committee seemed further along than Gulf County despite forming later.

What could Shoaf do to assist? Check on that non-profit and incorporation paperwork.

The paperwork was submitted in June, the check for the application had been cashed and the timeline was alleged to be two to three weeks.

Shoaf made some calls and that paperwork is now in the system and should be processed in a more timely manner.