Long-Term Recovery Group eyes ongoing needs and aligns volunteer efforts for flood victims

After the flooding event in Midland County in May 2020, there were real, emergent needs throughout the community and several groups jumped in to help to aid with evacuation, food, water, shelter and personal care just to name a few.

Then we assessed the damage, and many of those same volunteers helped as flood victims started the drying out process, muck out efforts, completed damage reports, or started demolition.

While the water is long gone, the damage still remains and that is now the focus of the Long-Term Recovery Group for the 2020 Mid-Michigan flooding.

The Long-Term Recovery Group and six subcommittees.

The group is a cross-sector group of individuals from a variety of organizations and agencies working together to help the community recover from the flood. They on a weekly basis to discuss progress, needs and actions, along with six subcommittees for case management, outreach, construction housing support, financial support and volunteer coordination.

“This is disaster is unlike anything we’ve faced as a community in any of our lifetimes,” says Sharon Mortensen, President and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation. “Because of that, at times the rebuilding and recovery process can feel like it’s progressing slower than we would all like it to. We all want our community restored to the way it was before the flood, and to do that, we have to work through this process. At the end of the day, we're all in this together with a heart to serve our community.”

Midland County moved into Phase 3 in July 2020.

As such, the group recently kicked off a series of meetings with different members of the committee, FEMA and more. And now that we have FEMA in the community as a resource, the priority has been given to using those funds available through disaster relief first.

Through August 2020, nearly $36 million has been distributed within the broader community in relation to the flood relief efforts, roughly split in half between individuals and household program and housing assistance at about $18 million each.

After the FEMA resources are utilized, the Long-Term Recovery Group is looking at what’s next and what gaps still remain specifically to help individuals and families recover. Funds are currently limited to personal assistance only, and will likely not extend to municipal or business relief efforts.

While the water is long gone, the damage still remains and that is now the focus of the Long-Term Recovery Group for the 2020 Mid-Michigan flooding.

Yet you can also find many small, invaluable ways that community members have helped one another out in various capacities through the Long-Term Recovery Group’s efforts and many others.

In that way, the flood has brought out the best in us.

“As we’ve worked though the flood, it has reaffirmed our care for neighbors and our sense of community in Midland County,” says Sharon Mortensen. “While it has been a terrible time for us as a community, it has also been reaffirming to show our care for one another.”

You can find many small, invaluable ways that community members have helped one another out over the past several months.

You’ll see that care each and every day through the efforts of people pitching in and volunteering where they can.

 “Our family helped a couple of different volunteer opportunities over the months of recovery, initially with one of the mobile food pantries at our church, Blessed Sacrament,” says Connie Gavin, local Midland resident and volunteer. “We were fortunate enough to not be impacted by the flood, so you just pitch in where you can, because we know so many people who were. When United Way needed help with all of the temporary shelter equipment and supplies utilized at different high schools, we helped move, store and clean up those supplies as well.”

“You don’t always know exactly what to do in times like these, so we just looked for ways we could lighten others’ load, whether that was cooking for people or helping with cleanup,” says Gavin. “We also helped with meals for one of the organic Facebook groups called Home Cooked with Love that operated from the Living Vineyard Church on Ashman Street. We are thankful to live in a community where you can find ways to help in a number of different ways and you just chip away at it with the little things.”

You’ll see that care each and every day through the efforts of people pitching in and volunteering where they can.

For Shailja Shrivastava, it was an effort spurred by her three daughters and their desire to help others in need. The Shrivastava family evacuated during the flood, and Shailja’s oldest daughter Pranjal Singh, a junior at the time at a boarding school in Indiana, was home taking classes remotely, and felt a strong desire to get out in the community and do what she could.

“Pranjal was finishing up her AP exams online at the time, but she was absolutely insistent that she must stop everything and go find where help was needed,” says Shrivastava. “She’s only 17, so she needed to be accompanied by a parent, so off we went.”

Shailja and Pranjal went to Sanford to volunteer and also helped out at the Doan History Center, volunteering for the tough job of knocking drywall out.

After the FEMA resources are utilized, the Long-Term Recovery Group is looking at what gaps still remain specifically to help individuals and families recover.

“She is very adventurous, and up for any challenge, so I was not surprised she jumped in to volunteer knock parts of the wall out,” says Shailja of her daughter. “It is absolutely in her nature to want to take risks and make an impact. At some point, I made her come home and finish her exams for school, otherwise she would have kept going.”

Later in the spring, Shailja and her other daughters, twins Diya and Tara Singh, both 13 and students at Jefferson Middle School, joined and they all headed to the Midland Area Farmers Market to help direct traffic, count patrons and other tasks as the market worked through a drive-thru phase and the family still volunteers on a regular basis.

“As a mother, I think it is very important for them to see the human spirit at work in times like this,” says Shrivastava. “We like volunteering and helping people. It has helped them realize that even though there may be tough times, life is not bad and there are always ways you can help others in need.”

Through August 2020, nearly $36 million has been distributed within the broader community in relation to the flood relief efforts.

You can view the Long-Term Recovery Group’s kickoff meeting here, and subsequent meetings will be held with various topics, updates from the recovery subcommittees, and opportunity for Q&A from the public on the first and third Thursday’s of each month. Meetings are free and open to the public, users just must pre-register to join. More information is available at on the Midland Area Community Foundation’s website.

If you or someone you know would like to help out and volunteer with the Long-Term Recovery Group, contact the United Way of Midland County here or the Midland Area Community Foundation here.

Read more articles by Courtney Soule.

Courtney is a longtime Midland resident and enjoys telling the story of the community's evolution. As the Managing Editor of Catalyst Midland, her favorite topics are interesting people, change makers, outdoor recreation and design. Aside from Catalyst, her published work can be found various places including Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog and a number of other websites, papers, menus and the occasional one-liner. 
Signup for Email Alerts