1st Year Member Reflection by Elizabeth Flannery When I heard we were deploying to Washington, IL after the tornadoes of November 17th roared through, I pictured myself managing volunteers in the debris field. Little did I know that the most important work is sometimes done away from the action in the field, in the VRC. The first few days flew by in a blur of volunteers, projects and confusion. As time went by, I grew more confident in my role as project and group coordinator and I have had the opportunity to work with outstanding organizations as well as the hundreds of spontaneous volunteers who came out to help.
Before leaving Washington, IL my teammates and I had the opportunity to help in the debris field alongside NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster. That one day in the field allowed me to see the other side of disaster response, to see where the volunteers that we processed everyday where working and what they were experiencing. It was truly an eye-opening experience for me. Even though it was bitter cold and there was destruction surrounding us from every direction, spirits were high. People from all over came together, to help the residents of Washington pick up the pieces and work towards rebuilding their community. While we were at the work site a group of people walked up the driveway. We were introduced to Rev. David Meyers, the Senior Advisor to the FEMA Administrator/Director Center of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships. AmeriCorps St Louis was congratulated and thanked many times by Rev. Meyers and our partnering agencies – NECHAMA and All Hands – for our work in coordinating the spontaneous volunteers through our VRC.
It was amazing to see the positive effect of our hard work and long hours to the community of Washington. It took me until that moment to realize that the work we do behind the scenes in the VRC is just as important as the work in the field (and we were MUCH warmer). The learning curve was very steep for me these last 18 days, and I know I have a lot more to learn on the next disaster but I am grateful to have been able to have this experience and the support of my teammates.