Montana Volunteers Serve with Citizens Affected by the Flooding

Projects Mobilize Volunteer Leaders in Flood Emergency

Recently retired RSVP Volunteer Ernie Kolar answered the request from South Central Montana RSVP to go to an American Red Cross meeting in Lewistown early this spring. The purpose of the meeting was to build the volunteer force in this very remote area rather than to depend on the Great Falls unit, which is completely inaccessible during winter storms when the road is frequently impassable. Ernie came away from the meeting with a leadership role as Disaster Action Team volunteer and began immediately assessing the community needs and resources. He first identified potential shelters for emergency situations and assessed the readiness of the Red Cross trailer holding shelter supplies. When he began these tasks he was told that “not much ever happens in Lewistown”. That quickly changed when the spring floods hit the community. Due to torrential rains, water began flowing over the spillway at East Fork Dam and Spring Creek subsequently overflowed its banks, running through the south east end of town filling yards, basements and homes with muddy water and washing away roads, culverts and bridges. Ernie quickly set up an emergency shelter for 25 families that were displaced. He was later called upon after the waters subsided to assess damages to people’s homes. He estimates that he spent over 80 hours responding to this major event – reminding him again that “not much ever happens in Lewistown”.

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When Missoula RSVP put the word out to their volunteers via email, Facebook, and personal networking over 30 trained RSVP volunteers and a large number of other community volunteers immediately responded to be added to an “On-Call” list to help with the flooding emergency.

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Missoula RSVP Task Force leader, Norman Moeller stepped in to cover the Missoula City/County Flood Coordinator duties for two full days June 24th and 25th, when the coordinator had to be gone.

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RSVP Collaborates with AmeriCorps NCCC and Community Partners to Get Things Done

Area II RSVP Director Shirlee Brillhart was instrumental in working with the Tammy Zemliska from the MV Community Foundation to secure the help of 11 NCCC AmeriCorps, redirected from Wyoming to the Musselshell County area to help with flood clean-up efforts from July 2nd through July 11th. Brillhart organized a list of neighbors needing help, housing, and food for the team in this remote frontier farming and ranching area of Montana as they try to rebuild after almost completely being engulfed in water.

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As a result of the recent flooding emergency across most of Montana, the Action for Eastern Montana Senior Companion Program Director, Karen O’Dell organized several community partners on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation to provide a Disaster Training Clinic at three different locations on the reservation including Frazer, Fort Kipp, and Poplar. The 4-hour clinic includes presentations by the National Weather Service, County DES, Tribal Emergency Response & Housing Authority, Fort Peck Tribes Caregivers/Outreach, MSU-Extension, and Aging Services. They will also put together emergency “Grab & Go” kits for event participants, with the bags provided by Montana Citizen Corps/Office of Community Service.

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