Dear NECHAMA Community,

As we approach the end of 2019, we find ourselves closing the books on two historic years of disaster response. Nothing could have prepared us, or the country, for two years of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes affecting community after community as Harvey, Irma, Maria, Michael, Florence, and Dorian, struck along the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf coasts. Along with thousands of volunteers, supporters, and donors we have brought hope and comfort to disaster-affected communities. Together we have made a significant impact for over 500 families who would not otherwise have had the means to make their homes safe again. Thank you.

Historically, our work has been supported by donations reacting to the larger well-publicized natural disasters, at times, leaving the smaller lesser-known events without financial assistance. Only with general funding are we able to respond to low attention events like the flooding in California that affected hundreds of families along the Russian River.

Newsworthy or not, the impact on individuals is the same in a post-disaster environment. Valorie, a deaf single mother of two from Monte Rio, California, lives with her children and their three dogs. The February storm severely impacted their town, turning Monte Rio into an island accessible only by boat. Rainwaters caused the Russian River to swell beyond its banks, cresting to a 25-year record level and causing floodwaters to rise 13 ft in her neighborhood. For three years, Valerie had been petitioning to have her home lifted. Her request was finally approved three weeks after the February 2019 floods. When the floodwaters receded, Valerie and her 13 yr old son, who insisted on staying and helping his mother, and one of their dogs moved into a travel trailer on their property. Her younger child and the other two family pets went to secure locations until it was safe for them to return to their home.

Their home required removal of all drywall, insulation, carpet, cabinets, furniture, and personal belongings that were damaged and moldy by the floodwaters. It was a full home muck and gut. The average salary in Monte Rio is $40,000. To outsource a full muck and gut can cost as much as of $10-$15,000 depending on the amount of damage and work needed, an amount that is beyond the financial capacity of most Monte Rio residents. Utilizing volunteers and our knowledgeable staff, we were able to provide this service in only six days at no cost to Valerie and her family, and at an organizational cost of $2,700.

Valerie and her son had started the mucking process before we arrived, and were there with us every step of the way, helping wherever possible. Valerie greeted the team each morning in high spirits, communicating through furiously passed notes, once remarking, “I didn’t know you would just keep showing up!”. One morning, Valorie’s son entered the room, introduced himself to the team of volunteers, thanked everyone, announced that it was his birthday, and started working right alongside us. On our final day, when the work was completed, and the home was ready to be lifted. Valerie hugged and thanked everyone for their help and said, “We are friends now, so stay in touch.”

As 2019 comes to a close, I hope you will keep families like Valerie’s in mind. Your donation helps us keep our commitment to providing comfort and compassion, radiating hope and healing. Please give generously so our shared work can continue to grow and impact communities and families experiencing natural disasters.

Yours in service.

David Kaplan
Executive Director