Heartland United Way

Heartland United Way story

This impact story originally appeared on the Disaster Philanthropy Playbook website. 

In spring 2019, heavy rains and melting snow combined to send water rushing over riverbanks and across the fields of Nebraska. The Heartland United Way found itself in the middle of the storm, with two of the communities in their region almost completely submerged. As they began to assess the people’s needs across their area, the organization turned to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) Midwest Early Recovery Fund (ERF).

With CDP’s support, they hired a coordinator and two case managers to help people navigate the road to recovery. The $185,000 grant from ERF allowed this team to reach almost 200 people with case management support.

Disaster case management (DCM) can be a complex effort that involves assessing the needs of individuals or families and working to connect them with the necessary resources to meet those needs. Sometimes this can be a simple phone call to another agency. It can also be a highly complex and challenging project that involves coordinating multiple services and programs to get people and families back on their feet.

One of the most challenging cases for the Heartland United Way involved a single parent whose house was severely damaged by the storm. The foundation wall collapsed and allowed floodwaters into the basement, destroying all in its path, including the furnace and water heater. Because of mitigating circumstances, the family was unable to qualify for FEMA support and was left with no place to live.

Photo courtesy of Heartland United Way

Heartland United Way’s case managers successfully navigated the challenges brought on by the flooding and COVID-19 to secure a place for the family to live. The coordination of the contractors along with sweat equity from the homeowner helped to overcome the hurdles and get this family back into their home.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, a planned volunteer blitz to rebuild their house had to be canceled. Still, the parent took the initiative and invested as much time as possible to rebuild their home.

“It was roadblock after roadblock, but we were able to get them back into their house this summer. That one feels like a success. These unique and challenging cases that have taken so long. We have been able to help manage to the point where the homeowner is so happy with where they are now,” recounted Elizabeth Troyer-Miller, Heartland Disaster Outreach Coordinator

Thanks to the work of the Heartland United Way, with the support of CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund and the case managers the grant supported, this family returned to a rebuilt home with some family-centered upgrades in the summer of 2020. DCM provided by the Heartland United Way ensured that this family successfully navigated the challenges of rebuilding after a disaster without access to traditional supports like insurance or FEMA funding. After more than a year, this family is home again.

(Photo source: Heartland United Way)