Rising from the flood: Transforming disaster into resilience

“The Volunteer Coordinator position was crucial to the community’s recovery.”  Christy Fiala, Fremont Area United Way

In 2019, Fremont, Nebraska, faced devastating flooding that left a lasting impact on families and communities. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic added to the hardships faced by underserved populations in the region, resulting in a higher need for essential assistance. Fremont Area United Way (FAUW) emerged as a beacon of hope during this difficult time, offering various programs and services to help the community overcome challenges.

With support from a CDP Midwest Early Recovery Fund grant, FAUW hired a volunteer coordinator. This pivotal addition to their team supported the recovery process and enhanced the community’s capacity to respond effectively to future disasters.

The volunteer coordinator managed volunteer projects as part of the long-term recovery task force. They also played a central role in organizing job sites and collaborating with the construction team. This coordinated approach helped expedite the recovery process.

Families affected by the 2019 flooding received critical disaster assistance managed by the volunteer coordinator, including rent and utility payments, home repairs, mold remediation and relocation. As a result of these services, affected families were able to begin to rebuild their lives.

FAUW’s work extended far beyond addressing immediate needs. Christy Fiala, FAUW executive director, noted:

“This grant had a huge impact on the community in surprising ways. The position served as a bridge, connecting families to additional community resources. This included access to clothing vouchers, support from a local food pantry, language services for non-English speakers, and referrals to mental health therapists.”

The COVID-19 pandemic added an unprecedented level of complexity. Despite obstacles, FAUW demonstrated dedication and adaptability in supporting the community. Christy Fiala reflected:

“While COVID made it necessary to change how we worked with large groups of volunteers, it did not stop the overall effort to work collaboratively in the community to repair homes impacted by the 2019 flooding.”

With its unwavering commitment to the community, FAUW addressed critical recovery needs and sowed seeds of resilience, trust and hope. This work fostered trust between marginalized populations, various agencies and other community members. As a result, Fremont is more resilient and ready to face future challenges.

Photo: A church youth group collecting garbage in a local nature trail in Fremont, Nebraska, that was impacted by the 2019 flooding. Credit: Fremont Area United Way