Many Community Stories! MontereyCo.Recovers. org, a New Monterey County Community Website, Delivers a Powerful Impact in Only 2 months


 

October 3, 2016. Monterey, CA. Launched in Monterey County less than 2 months ago, MontereyCo.Recovers.org is an interactive website that enables communities to engage in an ongoing, collaborative, grassroots effort to match the needs of people impacted by an event (such as the Soberanes Fire) to the volunteers and donors who want to help. To date, MontereyCo.Recovers.org has addressed more than 142 separate requests from individuals/families in areas throughout Monterey County impacted by the Soberanes Fire. Not only does the website handle requests and offers to donate through the website, but they also work with community members via phone.  

The MontereyCo.Recovers.org website makes it so much easier for local organizations and businesses to work together. For example, CERV of the Monterey Peninsula, the Community Foundation (CFMC), the Monterey County Association of Realtors (MCAR). Lion's Club of Marina, the Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA), the Cachagua Bible Church, the Big Sur Station, Hayward Lumber in Pacific Grove and the Defense Language Institute (DLI) have been collaborating to actively making a difference in people's lives. MontereyCo.Recovers.org has helped amass a volunteer army of more than 260 people who have offered goods and services. Recovers.org Squad volunteers work every day to help meet the needs of individuals, families, and communities impacted by the fire.

The stories of those helped are often unique and heart-warming. Here are just a few examples:

1. Two grants from CFMCO of $30,000 were dispersed to Jamesburg, Cachagua, Tassajara residents by Cachagua Bible Church.  These two grants impacted 68 families: 85 children and 128 adults.  

2. Willy Nelson and Hayward Lumber have collected water and other goods from individuals and are still doing it.

3. Monterey County Association of Realtors called MontereyCo.Recovers.org and asked how they could help.  They raised money from members and gave out 12 gift cards of $200 each to 12 people whose lives were impacted because of loss of work, displacement and other challenges.

4. Nestlé Water stepped in to help Big Sur residents impacted by the Soberanes Fire. The company donated 20 pallets of water, containing some 36,000 water bottles to the people of Big Sur to assist in alleviating the critical shortage of drinking water, and perhaps avert a future drinking water crisis this winter. Not only faced with wells and water supply impacted by the wild fire, but Big Sur residents are also needing to gear up for a winter that could bring mudslides and runoffs, which could re-contaminate the water supply and close roads that could bring in needed supplies.

The Nestlé donation was brokered through the Monterey County Recovers website, MontereyCo.recovers.org in collaboration with the Mid Coast Fire Brigade and the Coast Property Owners Assocation (CPOA).  .

5. Before the recent donation of water from Nestle, the community generously donated cases of water when asked. Between the City of Seaside Employees Association (30 cases), individuals (36 cases), and Defense Language Institute (DLI) (57 cases), of water was donated to Big Sur residents with collaboration of CPOA for pick up and DLI for delivery.

6. A middle school in Salinas is holding a fund raising dance on September 30th to raise money to purchase needed tools that were burned in the fire because carpenters, landscapers can't work without their tools.

7. Soon after the Soberanes Fire began, the Monterey Bay Aquarium offered to let anyone impacted by the fire take a day off and come (for free) to the Aquarium through MontereyCo.recovers.org

8. Recovers Squad members have come from multiple communities and worked to handle inquiries via the site all day every day early on and continue to help out.

More examples are available and we can provide contact information for each story upon request:

Although expectations are that FEMA or another governmental agencies are helping those affected by the Soberanes Fire, the day-to-day lives of our neighbors still continue to be impacted and they need help. And, those assisted have an enormous appreciation for the smallest efforts made.  There are many health issues (asthma and more), financial concerns, emotional stress and exhaustion, as well as lack housing, the need to clean up debris, communities that need to re-establish infrastructure, people who have lost wages or even jobs. Each individual, each family are now trying to put their lives back together.

The outpouring from the community at large is truly awesome. The site is the tool that makes it work and the founders of this site that is used throughout the country, Recovers International, are also available for interviews.   

For more information, go to MontereyCo.Recovers.org or call 831-649-3050.


Additional Background - Article:

Here’s a detailed informative article available for publishing, too. Feel free to extract information from it or let us know in advance if you’d like to publish it. Thank you!  

A Tale of Two Recoveries

By Harvey Pressman ([email protected] or 649-3050)

            When disaster hits, the initial danger is just the beginning- the beginning of a long process of response, recovery and rebuilding that can take months, and sometimes years, to complete. The Soberanes Fire that hit Monterey County in California on July 22, 2016, is proving to be one of those long, drawn-out disasters.

Almost three months in, the fire has consumed over 130,000 acres, and may continue to grow to at least 180,000 acres, making it by far the largest and most expensive wildfire in the history of the United States, with a price tag already approaching $200 million.  It has hovered at around 60% containment for the past month and is now 70% contained.  In the Big Sur area, the fire has consumed over 60 homes and outbuildings, and impacted the lives of well over a thousand people in a variety of difficult ways. In another part of the County, extending down Carmel Valley Road, no homes have actually been lost, but the fire has exacted a significant toll on the people who had to evacuate their homes as the fire drew too close for comfort, on the people who had to flee the area because of the dangers to family health caused by days upon days of dangerously unhealthy air quality levels, on families who lost extensive food stocks to mandatory cutoffs of electricity required by the firefighting efforts, on employees who have lost work days and wages as a consequence of the local conditions.

            In these two areas, this huge wild fire has caused a host of significant problems: health issues, financial concerns, emotional stress and exhaustion, as well as folks who lack housing, need to clean up debris, people who have lost wages or even jobs, and whole communities that need to re-establish infrastructure. Families are now trying to put their lives back together, even as evacuations continue and possible collateral damage lies ahead. But the nature of the problems and challenges in each area also diverge in significant ways, and together they tell the story of how communities need to recover from major disasters through a wider lens.

            That story can perhaps most easily be understood by sampling the many requests for help support, goods and services that have been filtered through a web “portal” that has been designed to provide a grassroots, rapid response to the needs of individuals, families and groups impacted by the disaster. Many of these needs have been brokered through the Monterey County Recovers website--montereyco.recovers.org—sponsored by a local non-profit all-volunteer organization, Community  Emergency Response Volunteers of the Monterey Peninsula, or CERV.

            Montereyco.recovers.org has enabled area communities to engage in an ongoing, collaborative, grassroots effort to match the needs of people impacted by the Soberanes Fire to the volunteers and donors who want to help. To date, montereyco.recovers.org has addressed more than one hundred separate requests from individuals, families, and organizations. In addition, it has enabled local organizations to work together to get and distribute significant emergency funds to people in immediate need, including, for example, the Community Foundation for Monterey County (CFMC), the Monterey County Association of Realtors (MCAR) and CERV of the Monterey Peninsula.

The website makes it easy for local organizations to work together to solve problems. To date, it has amassed a volunteer army of more than 260 individuals who have offered goods and services. Also, Recovers.org volunteers from local organizations work to meet the needs of individuals, families, and communities impacted by the fire. Organizations on the site include the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services, CFMC, Community Property Owner’s Association (CPOA), Lions Club Response Team, Monterey Peninsula Chamber  of Commerce, Central Coast Red Cross, Los Padres Forest Association, The SPCA for Monterey County, Shoreline Community Church, Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula -- Caring Network, Cachagua Bible Church. In addition, the website has enabled hundreds of people to access other local resources and information that can assist during the long recovery process. [For more information, go to montereyco.recovers.org]

            The Recovers web site went up the day after the fire started, and Big Sur evacuations were already in full swing. In the initial phase, the needs that individuals expressed focused on shelter replacement (for those whose homes were lost), temporary shelter (for those under evacuation orders whose homes were saved), financial assistance to cover immediate losses, lost wages, etc., and a host of individualized needs ranging from a replacement pair of boots to the materials for a replacement tool shed.

            About ten Recovers Squad members quickly emerged from multiple communities, got trained up quickly on how to manage the site, and "worked the site" and the phone all day every day early on. In many cases, they went far above and beyond the usual expectations of grassroots volunteers in their efforts to respond quickly and empathically to the variety of needs coming across their computers. Scores of volunteers also jumped in to offer their skills, their willingness to help and items they were ready to donate.

            During the first days of the emergency, Recovers Squad members and volunteers were able to respond daily to a laundry list of needed items requested from the Big Sur station and figure out how to get each load delivered to the station. Later on, Hayward Lumber, a local business, stepped up and offered their headquarters as a drop-off point for the daily collection of items and transported the items to the Big Sur Station.

            Meanwhile, as the fire raged on and moved eastward, its harmful effects began to be felt further East, in the small and relatively isolated communities down Carmel Valley Road. Communities like Jamesburg, Cachagua and Tassajara witnessed their air quality plunge into unhealthy and harmful depths, and faced mandatory evacuations of their own. For the folks in these communities, initial needs centered on the temporary evacuation of people whose health conditions, (e. g., asthma, seizures) required temporary relocation or people whose homes were too close to where firefighters were lighting defensive backfires and taking other preventive steps.

            In both areas, some families soon found themselves without food for their children or gas for their cars. Recovers was able quickly to find two sources of cash support for those feeling the economic impact. Somewhat out of the blue, the Monterey County Association of Realtors called and asked how they could help.   Told of the need for money for food and gas, they quickly went to work, raised money from members and distributed fourteen gift cards of $200 each to people who Recovers had identified as folks whose lives had been impacted economically because of loss of work, housing displacement, health expenses, and were able to give out gift cards when the need was most immediate.

            For the residents of Jamesburg, Cachagua, and Tassajara, way down Carmel Valley Road, cash assistance was available through the many donations made to the Soberanes Fire fund managed by the Community Foundation for Monterey County, but there was a hitch.  The foundation was unable to provide cash assistance directly and needed a non-profit entity that could receive a grant and dispense the funds fairly and appropriately, and none was on the horizon. CERV stepped into the breach and agreed to submit proposals specifically for that purpose and to administer the funds through the contacts it had already established with responsible locals involved with the Community Emergency Response Team in the area.

            Moving rapidly, CERV produced proposals within days, the foundation fast-tracked two grants totaling $30,000, and, in partnership with Cachagua Bible Church and its hard-working (and fast-working) pastor, Orville Myers, CERV was able swiftly to get the funds into the hands of 68 impacted families consisting of 85 children and 128 adults. Adapting an application process already in use by the CPOA in Big Sur and utilizing community leader’s broad knowledge of local people, their problems and their needs, Myers managed to get emergency funds into the hands of people who had lost large stores of refrigerated supplies to the emergency electricity cutoffs experienced by area residents, individuals who had racked up big motel bills in escaping from the dangerous smoke-filled air, families whose wage earners had lost days and even weeks of earning to the consequences of the fire, immigrant families whose incomes had been disrupted by events associated with the fire, and a number of others whose lives have been disrupted by the fire and its many unanticipated by-products.

            Meanwhile, back in Big Sur, another unexpected by-product of the Soberanes Fire was rearing its ugly head. The fire and its multiple consequences have impacted access to potable water, creating an immediate drinking water shortage and an even more serious possible impending crisis. If the mudslides likely to occur on the treeless lands during the upcoming rainy season materialize, an even bigger water shortage looms large in the coming months. When the request for supplemental water landed on Recovers’ door, CERV sprang into action. Within days, 36 cases of bottled water contributed by various individuals and 30 cases donated by the City of Seaside employees found their way to the Big Sur fire station. Shortly thereafter, the Defense Language Institute came through with another 57 cases. And dwarfing them all, on September 16, Nestlé Water NA. delivered some twenty pallets, consisting of over 1500 cases, to Fire Chief Cheryl Goetz in Big Sur. 

            Monterey County’s rapid response to the water needs in Big Sur exemplifies the ways in which the Recovers website can mobilize grassroots community support from individuals, organizations and businesses for a host of needs, big and small, frequently in a matter of hours. The stories mentioned above represent just a small sampling of the wide variety of requests that have come through the Recovers web site, which have been matched by an equally wide variety of responses.

Some other stories that perhaps illustrate other aspects of the surprising power of the Recovers.org include:

• The Monterey Aquarium's almost instant offer to let anyone impacted by the fire, and any firefighters with time off, to take a break and come (for free) to the aquarium.   

• A family heavily impacted by the health threats caused to an asthmatic baby and Dad by the heavy smoke in Carmel Valley and in need of a host of supports, including a place to stay, an air purifier, funds for gas and food, children’s clothing, etc., whose multiple and ongoing needs have been met by an outpouring of generosity from multiple individuals and organizations,

• Manager Willy Nelson at Hayward Lumber, who has provided a staging area in Pacific Grove for collected goods on their way to Big Sur (including water) from individuals, has helped out a family who are already rebuilding their home with materials for their tool shed and continues to demonstrate how local businesses can make a huge difference with the resources at their disposal.

• A middle school in Salinas that holding a fund raising dance to raise money for tools lost in the fire by carpenters and landscapers who can't work without the necessary tools. 

            These stories, and the many others that still occur on an almost daily basis, is each in its way unique, and they often require unique responses.  Recovers continues to get requests and offers to donate through the web site, but also by phone. With the ongoing support of CERV volunteers who have deep roots in the community, Recovers.org is proving to be a truly amazing tool, with the power to garner support from scores of individuals, institutions and agencies (Fire Departments, Red Cross, County Office of Emergency Services, SPCA, etc., etc.)

            The Recovers website has made it easy for local organizations to work together to solve problems. To date, a volunteer army of more than 260 people have offered goods and services. Recovers volunteers from local organizations work to meet the needs of individuals, families, and communities impacted by the fire. In addition, the website has enabled hundreds of people to access local resources and information that can assist during the inevitably long recovery process. For more information, please go to MontereyCo.Recovers.org or call Recovers at 831-649-3050.

What is Recovers.org?

Recovers is a web-based platform that empowers local organizations to make their communities more resilient. Recovers.org offers a solution that empowers local organizations to manage spontaneous volunteers, donations, and requests so communities can recover significantly faster. Designed as an online information h ub and tool kit, the site helps communities prepare together, mitigate risk, and match local needs with local resources. 

Recovers was founded in 2011 by two sisters after a severe tornado struck their town i n Massachusetts.

Recovers.org is currently utilized as a portal i n 186 communities across 17 countries as shown on map at https://recovers.org/communities map.

Chris Kuryak, COO of Recovers.org, writes, “The Monterey County Community Resilience site MontereyCo.Recovers.org is one of the very few communities that launched a Recover’s site BEFORE a disaster occurred. CERV’s leadership in this preparedness effort also involved community leaders from Fire Departments and Offices of Emergency Services. We assisted in training a small cadre of volunteers to respond to and meet the needs of residents. MontereyCo.Recovers.org organizations and volunteers have been able to assist in building post-disaster capacity much more quickly than other Recovers communities around the world.”