Salina — Disasters often strike at unexpected and inconvenient times. Yet immediate response is essential to aid those impacted.
Michelle Martin, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas, said Catholic Charities established a Disaster Relief Fund in 2017, with the intention of being prepared to assist immediately when disaster strikes. The money from the fund is used to assist those who live within the diocese; no money is sent toward national disasters. Parishes within Manhattan held a special collection for the Disaster Relief Fund Sept. 15-16 to assist families recover from the Sept. 3 flood.
The fund began in 2017 following the large-scale Aug. 10 hail storm in WaKeeney. “We were overwhelmed by the generosity of the response in the diocese,” Martin said of the Aug. 26-27, 2017 special collection. All money raised from the collection for WaKeeney and following the Manhattan flooding will assist individuals in the Salina Diocese. From the money raised, Catholic Charities was able to financially assist 34 people in WaKeeney, as well as 14 other households that experienced a disaster such as a tornado or fire since the fund’s inception. The lesson learned from WaKeeney was how vital it is to have money on-hand to assist immediately when a disaster strikes. “When a disaster happens, decisions must be made immediately so that you can respond quickly,” Martin said. “It’s important to have something already established. Because the Disaster Relief Fund already existed, I knew Catholic Charities could participate at the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) because I had some funding available to help with less than 24-hours notice to prepare and respond.”
The MARC brought multiple agencies, including Catholic Charities, together to assist those affected by the Sept. 3 flood in Manhattan.
Martin said the Red Cross is set up for immediate response. “They set up temporary shelters, but those shelters were shut down in a week,” she said. “We are looking at the long-term recovery for families.” When homes flooded May 28 in Hill City, Martin said Catholic Charities was the only agency assisting because the number of people impacted was too small for other agencies to deploy assistance.
“While people of Hill City were still trying to recover, there was another flash flood on July 1,” Martin said. Through the Disaster Relief Fund, six individuals have been assisted, with an additional seven more who are pending. None of the individuals Catholic Charities is assisting had flood insurance, and Martin said many lost everything. When a disaster strikes, Martin said she is able to apply for a $10,000 grant from Catholic Charities, USA to assist in each disaster.
“In rural areas, that kind of assistance is huge,” Martin said.
For Manhattan residents affected by the flood, Martin said social service agencies are cooperating and formed a Manhattan Community Long Term Recovery Committee. The committee has one universal form that a client will fill out. The information is shared across agencies. Each agency has a designated area for assistance. For example, Catholic Charities is assisting with home and auto repairs. Another agency will focus on rent and utility assistance, and others will assist with household items, food, clothing and miscellaneous expenses. A universal waiver was developed giving client consent to allow the agencies communicate, and will simplify case management. While Gov. Jeff Collyer issued a state of disaster emergency declaration following the Manhattan flood, Martin said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will probably only be available to assist with road and bridge repair or reconstruction.
“People assume FEMA will come in, but this isn’t big enough for individual FEMA help,” Martin said. “The declaration only means FEMA will be available for public projects, not individual homes.” Martin urged Manhattan residents who need assistance following the flood to contact the Manhattan Catholic Charities office at 323 Poyntz, Suite 102, Manhattan, KS 66502 or call (785) 323-0644. Those who wish to financially support disaster relief efforts may make a donation online at https://ccnks.org/disaster-relief-1 or mail a check to: Catholic Charities / Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1366, Salina, KS 67402-1366.