Our recovery story began two years ago. That’s 730 days, [...]
By Cathleen Louisignau|2022-05-19T13:22:51-04:00May 19th, 2022|Categories: News|Comments Off on United Way and the Long-term Disaster Recovery Group Honor the Work Accomplished in the Two Years since the Historic Flood
Our recovery story began two years ago. That’s 730 days, 17,520 hours since life changed for so many in Midland County.
The historic flooding impacted thousands. Over 2,400 homes initially reported flood damage in Midland County, causing an estimated $100-$150 million in residential damage.
“That was where our journey began,” shared Holly Miller, President & CEO of United Way of Midland County and chair of the Long-term Disaster Recovery Group [LTDRG]. “We honor the initial efforts of our Emergency Operations Center; our city, county, township and village leaders; along with the amazing first responders. Their decisive leadership and commitment ensured that not a single life was lost. The ways we have all worked together is the heart of our recovery journey.”
Relief efforts have been dynamic, evolving and required a phased and collaborative approach.
The first phase of response was meeting basic needs like food, shelter, personal care, cleaning and other recovery items. United Way teamed up with Dow in the initial weeks to develop a logistic plan for in-kind donated items and establishing eight distribution centers to serve people close to home.
“Team Dow not only shared their logistics know-how, but were on the ground volunteering and advocating with contacts across the country to help,” shared Miller. “They even graciously transformed the Dow hanger into warehouse for in-kind donated materials.”
The distribution centers continued serving survivors for months as Meridian Elementary, Senior Services, Greater Midland Community Center, Greater Midland North Family Center, Midland High School, Bullock Creek High School, Coleman High School, the Arnold Center and West Midland Family Center lent their locations and teams to get these vital resources out to families impacted. Volunteers served every day, including numerous corporate groups who stepped up to serve.
Next was working to collect data from homeowners. Damage assessments were conducted online through Midland County, along with visual inspections. Numerous community groups and VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active During Disaster) also documented household damage and initial clean-up work completed, along with data collected through volunteers and 211.
On July 14, the Federal Disaster Declaration was signed, bringing much-needed Federal resources to our community to begin the rebuild process. This marked the beginning of the Long-Term Recovery stage. FEMA assistance and SBA loan applications became available for homeowners and businesses.
The Long-term Disaster Recovery Group was formed with a broad representation of regional nonprofits, corporations, businesses, government, faith community, civic groups and schools. The group committed to serving as an advocate for our community and utilized best-practice strategies involved in long-term efforts. This includes leveraging resources to have the biggest impact and stretch our resources to serve the most people.
“Our need to move together, go forward, and take bold action was never greater than with the challenges we faced in 2020,” said Sharon Mortensen, President and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation. “The work of the Long-term Disaster Recovery Group is not only a great representation of our community’s vision statement – Midland: Together. Forward. Bold. An exceptional place where everyone thrives, but also representative of the fact that truly impactful and great things happen when we collaborate – especially in the face of a disaster.”
The process was driven by Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) who helped to support and guide individuals through the rebuild journey. DCMs worked closely with the construction managers and volunteer managers to assess homeowner needs, develop plans and deploy donated materials and volunteers to ensure the people impacted most by the flood received the help they needed.
“Raegan [a LTDRG Disaster Case Manager] was great to work with,” shared a flood survivor. “Although I wish we didn’t have this experience that led us to needing her help, we are incredibly grateful to have had her on our side through this recovery. If she didn’t have an answer, she found it. If she didn’t have the resources herself, she connected us to the people and places that did.”
Recovery from a catastrophic natural disaster takes years and is highly collaborative. Success is measured in getting individuals and families safely housed in a primary residence to create stability.
“As we mark the second anniversary of the 2020 Dam Failures,” shared Miller “we pause to celebrate the way our community has worked together, day after day to help our neighbors. While many were able to recover on their own, with the help of insurance, family and caring neighbors; many others have been helped through the collaborative efforts of the Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group.”
Outcomes to Celebrate
With 5,235 total FEMA registrations, over $35,263,259 has been disbursed to local survivors. In addition, low-interests SBA loans have been granted in the amount of $40,367,400. That’s over $75M federal dollars invested that we did not have to invest locally.
Support came from across town and across the nation, as over $3,592,604 of in-kind donated items were collected and distributed throughout Midland and Gladwin counties. This included discounts offered through two Whirlpool appliance sales, a generous donation of siding and insulation from Saint-Gobain and basic needs items arriving from all over the country.
The partnership between United Way and Habitat for Humanity has seen over $321,000 invested to help struggling families rebuild their homes and lives.
Home To Stay assisted 76 individuals with rent assistance and provided resources to restore water for 165 individuals, paid for by an investment of over $493,500 from United Way’s Rise Together Fund.
United Way and the Midland Area Community Foundation created funds to help with the remaining unmet needs. They raised $5,221,308 with generous gifts of foundations, corporations and individuals. To date, they have already invested $4,979,563 to rebuild over 179 homes; 78 in the city of Midland, 91 in Sanford and 8 near the Gladwin County border.
Midland Area Community Foundation helped with the initial funding of disaster case managers, the construction manager and a case manager at Home to Stay – utilizing philanthropic funds to catalyze the work of experts in disaster recovery.
Even with Covid-19 in the area, over 33,000 volunteer hours were invested their time help people recover. The value of those hours is just under $1M. Service ranged from help with mucking out, demo, painting and siding to debris removal, furniture deliveries and much more.
This is just a glimpse of the ways this community came together to help their neighbors. The list of organizations and people who made a difference is long; the impact is lasting. At the heart of our story, are the people who lost so much who continue to work with the community to put their lives back together.
“If we would have viewed flood recovery as an individual endeavor; we would have failed,” shared Miller. Our success is rooted in our ability to pull together, work together and become stronger together. The love for neighbors came from every corner of our community, throughout our state and even across the nation. We joined hands, leaned into the impossible and got busy. The results speak for themselves.”
That’s what Tom and Haley Perrin thought they would be dealing with when leaving their home the night the dams broke.
They evacuated with very little, expecting to return back home to their belongings the next day. They found refuge at their family store in Downtown Midland, hunkering down on the floor together to find comfort through the night.
Unable to sleep, they found themselves scrolling social media. Post after post showed the reality of what was happening to their neighbors and community.
That’s when it sank in. Their lives would be drastically changed and the damage to their home would be significant – if not a complete devastation.
“Returning home after the flood was really traumatic. We saw photos of other damaged homes and knew it was going to be bad, but we didn’t expect it to overwhelm us the way it did,” shared homeowners Tom and Haley. “The water was almost to the ceiling. Nearly everything we had…was ruined.”
As the days after the flood went by, Tom and Haley sat near the Tridge talking about what to do. They were expecting their first child soon and having a safe place to live was more important than ever.
They began their recovery journey by talking with their mortgage and insurance companies. After a few discussions, it was decided that saving their home was possible, and they set out to do just that.
Journey back home.
Their journey back home was filled with challenges. Hope of returning home was fading until Tom and Haley were connected with their Disaster Case Manager, Raegan Schultz, through United Way of Midland County. Raegan started connecting the pieces of the puzzle for the Perrin Family. She offered resources, emotional support and advocacy to get them the help they needed.
“Raegan was great to work with,” shared Tom. “Although I wish we didn’t have this experience that led us to needing her help, we are incredibly grateful to have had her on our side through this recovery. If she didn’t have an answer, she found it. If she didn’t have the resources herself, she connected us to the people and places that did.”
This young family was referred to Habitat for Humanity as part of a partnership with United Way. Along with Raegan and the team at Habitat, Perrin’s developed a plan to restore their home and got to work.
In just a few weeks, Tom, Haley, their baby boy Oliver and Haley’s sister Paige will finally be moving back home. After living in spare rooms with friends and family for a long two years, they are overjoyed to push play on their lives again, together as a family–at home.
“I don’t believe there is a word in the English language that truly describes how grateful we are,” shared Tom and Haley. “With the help of United Way, Habitat for Humanity and Raegan we are able to move back home.”
United Way of Midland County is excited to announce the call for artists is now open for their upcoming event – The Chair Project. This unique event will raise awareness of the struggles our community and neighbors face each and every day, while shining the light on the good work being done to improve lives.
The Chair Project is an art exhibition, featuring wooden chairs transformed by local artists. The artwork will bring a real story of impact to life through the interpretation and vision of each artist.
“This event is a creative approach to telling our neighbor’s stories,” shared Ashley Kring, Associate Director of Digital Marketing at United Way of Midland County. “We invite our community to sit alongside our neighbors to learn how their lives have been changed through our partner agencies. Our goal is that this event will provide awareness and education, along with inspiration and hope.”
United Way is searching for fifteen artists to be featured in the exhibition, each representing a community issue area. Hobbyists and professional artists ages 14 and up are encouraged to apply. The call for artists is open now through May 20, 2022, at unitedwaymidland.org/thechairproject.
The wooden chair as well as a stipend for materials will be provided to each artist. Artists will be notified by May 27th if chosen by the selection committee to participate. Artwork will be judged professionally and prizes will be awarded to the winning artists at a private reception hosted by United Way.
The public art exhibition will be held at the Midland Center for the Arts from July 29th to September 4th. Tickets will be available through the Midland Center for the Arts website at mcfta.org prior to the event opening.
“We are excited to bring this collaborative and creative event to our community,” shared Holly Miller, President and CEO of United Way of Midland County. “Storytelling is a powerful way to connect with the impact taking place in a personal and inspiring way. Viewers will be touched by the many ways their investment is helping neighbors at a time when they needed it most.”
Michigan Association of United Ways Reports 44% of Michigan Children Live in a Household with Income Below the ALICE Threshold
The Michigan Association of United Ways (MAUW) released its first report of the new 2022 ALICE in Focus Series, thanks to the generous support of the Consumers Energy Foundation. The series features three reports, each highlighting a different demographic group within Michigan’s ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – population: Children, those with Disabilities, and Veterans. The first report spotlights children growing up in financial hardship, in households that have an income, but still struggle to afford essentials such as housing, childcare, food, transportation, and healthcare, among other needs.
According to the 2022 ALICE In Focus: Children Report, nearly one million (44%) of Michigan children in 2019 lived in a household with an income below the ALICE Threshold. Of that 44%, 17% lived under the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and 27% earned above the FPL but did not earn enough to afford the basics in the communities where they lived. While there are children below the ALICE Threshold across all demographic groups, the report highlights the stark divide based on race and ethnicity – 71% of Black children and 58% of Hispanic children lived in households below the Threshold, compared to 36% of White children.
“The data in this new spotlight report is critical to inform the decisions we make as a community when developing programs that impact children in ALICE families,” shared Holly Miller, President and CEO at United Way of Midland County. “As an organization, we are committed to digging deep into this research, while continuing to listen to the folks within this population to truly understand how we can support them. It is not our role to prescribe solutions, but to walk alongside our neighbors to learn about the barriers that keep them from living a thriving and financially stable life.”
The Report reveals that children below the ALICE Threshold are concentrated in families where adults work in occupations with low median hourly wages. The 2021 ALICE Report found that 58% of jobs in Michigan paid less than $20, while a family of four needs to earn $32.06 an hour in order to make ends meet. ALICE in Focus confirms that the largest driver of a child’s financial stability is the employment status of household members, but underscores that two working parents or guardians does not guarantee financial stability noting that 23% of Michigan children live in households with two adults in the labor force yet are still below the ALICE Threshold.
The ALICE in Focus Report once again notes that many ALICE families earn too much to be eligible for public assistance, but still struggle to meet basic needs for their children. The Report finds the resources that ALICE children lack includes:
Stable Housing – 52% of children in renter households below the ALICE threshold were rent burdened, paying more than 35% of their household income on rent
Education– 37% of preschool aged children below the ALICE Threshold were enrolled in preschool, compared to 58% of their peers above the Threshold and more than 8,050 Michigan children ages 15-17 were not in school; more than half of these teens (59%) lived in households below the ALICE threshold
Health Insurance– 4% of children in families below the ALICE threshold did not have coverage, of insured children, 61% of children in families with income below the ALICE Threshold had public insurance, while 88% of children above the Threshold had private insurance
Home Internet – Nearly 300,000 children below the ALICE threshold in Michigan did not have access to high-speed internet at home, impacting access to education, learning support programs, and work
United Way of Midland County and United Ways across the state join many stakeholders to invest in programs to give hardworking ALICE families a hand up, which include: high-quality childcare and preschool, 2-1-1 information referral services, housing assistance, access to healthy and affordable food and transportation assistance.
“We have been shining the light on ALICE for many years,” shared Miller. “It’s a complex challenge that no single organization can solve. We bring people together to help address community conditions that give households stability and hope for tomorrow. This new series, ALICE in Focus, helps us to hone in to better understand key groups of people. The full Michigan Report also shows how these children and their families bore the brunt of the pandemic’s physical and emotional toll.”
ALICE in Focus is a national research series using the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS) through the lens of the ALICE measures – the Household Survival Budget and the ALICE Threshold. To view the national results, click here.
You can view results at the state level, as well as regionally in Bay and Midland County (Public Use Microdata Area)—a U.S. Census Bureau geography made up on groupings of about 100,000 people.
About United For ALICE United For ALICE is a key driver of innovative research and action around financial hardship. The data and analysis are shared with United Way chapters, corporations, foundations, government, and nonprofits to inform policy and promote positive change. United for ALICE partners with the Michigan Association of United Ways to bring the ALICE research to Michigan. For more details about the methodology for the ALICE in Focus Series, please visit www.UnitedForAlice.org/Methodology.