|A dispatched WCC member guts walls and floors rotted by floodwaters in Louisiana. Photo by: FEMA/J.T. Blatty|
WCC supervisor Ernie Farmer served as Incident Commander for the first month of AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team efforts, with WCC supervisors Rob Crawford, Phill VanKessel and other supervisors also holding key leadership roles. WCC AmeriCorps members organized volunteer reception centers, helped muck and gut homes, cleared debris from homes and much more.
The initial group of WCC staff and AmeriCorps members returned to Washington on Sept. 20. WCC supervisor Adam Hein and five WCC AmeriCorps members returned Oct. 14 from the second wave of response efforts. Thank you to all who have served and supported this response!
Throughout the houses that I aided in mucking and gutting, there is not a single person that I will not remember. From the cheerful pleasantries of Jimmy to the hilarious joviality of Benny, each person had a positive outlook on life and a unique perspective of the flood that frankly surprised me. Looking past themselves, almost all of the people we assisted were genuinely interested in our Louisiana experience. Most days we had meals supplied to us by these community members in an effort to make us more comfortable and satisfied. This was something I wouldn’t have expected. Each day might have been long, smelly and arduous but there is not one moment in this experience that I would take back.
Overall I am extremely grateful for having been given the opportunity to be part of this disaster deployment. This experience has been long, hot, sticky, overwhelming, delicious, disgusting, exciting, sad, interesting and heartwarming. I have learned far more than I ever expected about myself, about my crewmates, about construction and so much more. It is hard to put into one paragraph, but to sum it up I think I have become a better, more informed and empathetic person because of this opportunity. I have laughed a lot and bonded with both my crewmates and homeowners. I have also cried, knowing that we can only help so much. I am glad to being going home, but I will remember this month for the rest of my life. Also, our supervisor Lyle is an amazing human being.
And I think I speak for all of us when I say that I am extremely impressed by our supervisor Lyle. He keeps his cool through all of the ridiculous jobs he is in charge of, and has always been there for us. I don’t know how he does it, that guy’s unstoppable!
Mucking and gutting in no way has been a pleasant task, but the after effect of it has been far more rewarding than I originally thought it was going to be. Seeing how grateful and generous the people are here continually enriches the spirit to do more for them and get the project done. The experience I have had here has been like no other. I am thankful that I was able to be a part of the service that’s going on here. It not only gives further initiative to help communities in the future, it inspires me not to take things for granted.
The first thing I learned is that Southern Hospitality is real. Oh, so real. From day one we were greeted with, “Mornin’ darlin’! Can I get ya’ll anythin’ to eat?” Even if we weren’t hungry, we knew better than to say no to these incredibly thoughtful people and miss out on some of the best food in the country. From gumbo to jambalaya to fried chicken, homeowners who had lost everything went out of their way to provide us with hot meals to ensure we got the real Louisiana experience. Our crew spent most of our time mucking and gutting homes. While the worst was over for these people, helping them sort through what was left of their possessions brought us immediately into an intimate relationship with a stranger.
The projects were hard, and I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my life. Our assignments changed like the weather (sometimes with the weather!), and we were able to see a lot of the area around Baton Rouge. I’ve always thought of myself as a flexible person, but I realize now that I really like knowing the plan! Amidst these minor irritations, I was fortunate enough to get to know a lot of incredible WCC AmeriCorps members and supervisors, and feel like I have a greater appreciation for the program as a whole. The resiliency of people—both AmeriCorps members bouncing back from the hard work and heat, and survivors offering us blessings and love despite having lost so much—was overwhelming. This resiliency will continue to give me hope far into the future. I aim to one day be a part of such an important response team again.
WCC’s disaster response programFour of our WCC crews are designated disaster response crews, though any crew has the potential to deploy. Deployments range from national to local disasters, supporting flood response and prevention, wildfire operations, hurricane assistance and more.
|Dispatched WCC members join FEMA to assess flood damage in a Louisiana home. Photo by: FEMA/J.T. Blatty|
Twenty-four of our WCC AmeriCorps members and staff deployed to Florida on Sunday, Oct. 16, to assist communities affected by Hurricane Matthew flooding. With several thousand requests for assistance already on file, members and staff will stay busy with Volunteer Reception Center set up and command, debris removal, mucking and gutting homes and more. We're proud that our team is willing to give to those in need after natural disasters.
Join WCC!Do you want to help the environment, meet great people and make a real difference? The 2016-2017 AmeriCorps year just kicked off, but check back in February to apply for six-month positions with WCC! Ecology's Washington Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps Program, consists of three subprograms: the original WCC, Veteran Conservation Corps and Puget SoundCorps.
|A dispatched WCC member removes wall panels damaged by flooding in Louisiana. Photo by: FEMA/J.T. Blatty|
Story compiled and written by: Laura Schlabach, WCC outreach coordinator
Learn more about WCC at: www.ecy.wa.gov/wcc