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W.Va. Volunteer Groups Prepare For Long Term Flood Recovery

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Chuck Roberts/ WVPB
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Chandra Norton is a volunteer with a tribal AmeriCorps team from Hoopa, California. She and her team traveled five days to help flood victims begin to rebuild in West Virginia.

Following the flooding in June, thousands of volunteers have been involved in recovery efforts in West Virginia. Long term, there will be more need for volunteers to help flood victims repair their homes and their communities. AmeriCorps is just one organization looking at training volunteers to serve flood victims.

The number of West Virginians signing up to join AmeriCorps has increased in the past year. People in this state sign up for AmeriCorps at a higher rate than 47 other states.

Part of the reason could be that so many people here volunteer as children, or watch their parents or grandparents helping in their community.

“West Virginia is kind of built on this culture of taking care of each other. I think that’s one of the things I love the most about our state,” said Heather Foster, executive director of Volunteer West Virginia, and a former AmeriCorps volunteer herself.

Volunteer West Virginia coordinates the various AmeriCorps programs in WV. Foster says the flooding has reinforced how willing West Virginians are to help out their neighbors. She says thousands have volunteered to help with the flood recovery.

AmeriCorps volunteers have been on the ground doing everything from mold assessment on flooded houses to helping children get help dealing with the emotional trauma.

But it’s not just the culture of helping that’s causing such an increase in the number of West Virginians signing up to join AmeriCorps. The poor economy here also means that a lot of people are looking for any kind of work they can find, even if it doesn’t pay much.

There are 1,000 AmeriCorps volunteers serving in West Virginia this year.

Foster says she’s not sure if they’ll receive a lot of additional funding for more AmeriCorps positions next year. But they are hoping to see an increase in the number of projects related to long-term flood recovery. For example, this fall, they’ll be working help remove debris in flood-impacted communities.

She’s also working to get AmeriCorps volunteers trained to do construction so they can help rebuild or repair homes.

Note, reporter Roxy Todd is a former AmeriCorps volunteer herself.


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