When the Chips were Down for Others, You Stood Up!
As a token of our appreciation, CAC has created custom Deployment Tokens (clay poker chips). We are sending these to those volunteers who were able to help in our last 3 Deployments (Harvey, Florence, Michael). These volunteers lent a hand in various roles, both local and remote. When the chips were down for others, these volunteers took time out of their own lives to help others. And that’s the real deal. We’re willing to bet that these commemorative Deployment Tokens will serve as a reminder of the lives they touched in a time of crisis. To all our volunteers, THANK YOU.
Recipients should receive their tokens of appreciation before Christmas. We look forward to this ongoing tradition!
Active from: Oct 10 To Oct 28 Areas of activity: Freeport, Niceville and surrounding areas in Florida’s panhandle Partner organizations: Generations United Church in Niceville, FL, Grace Lutheran of Surgis, MI, HopePanhandle.org Deployment activities: Hygiene kits, cleaning kits, ice and fuel for ATVs running supplies from Generations Church to scattered and rural homes in need Amount spent: $6,492.32
Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Florida Panhandle late in the afternoon of Wednesday October 10, 2018 as a Category 4 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 MPH. It was the strongest storm to make landfall in the continental U.S since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Michael claimed the lives of 36 people, 26 of them in Florida and caused billions of dollars in damages across Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina.
Despite our depleted financial resources after our deployment to assist with Hurricane Florence, our CAC team began organizing our response to the storm on the evening of October 10, 2018. Our first action was to send an email to everyone in our mailing list informing them that we were activating for a response and reminding everyone how to donate, sign up to volunteer or follow our efforts on Zello. Our remote volunteers then began working the phones, calling our Volunteer and Safe Haven sign ups in the surrounding area to see what they could do to assist.
We found our Safe Haven, which turned into a secure storage and staging area for supplies, at the home of Molly and Dave Davis. The Davis’ were just outside of the affected area and had many contacts within the community and were aware of many who needed assistance. Our remote Volunteers went back to the phones to find areas of need which we might be able to service. Using lists created by our remote Tech Team, our Volunteers called numerous churches in the area to find out where we could help. Only ONE call was returned. Pastor Phil Daniels of Generations United Church in Niceville, FL responded to let us know that they were organizing supply runs into the area for the coming week and could use whatever assistance we could provide. As often happens during our relief efforts, our Safe Haven Volunteers knew this church well, both the Pastor and many of the church members. In the end, though we had found some additional drop-off points, this one partner turned out to be ideal for us. They were serving the areas not serviced by FEMA and the Red Cross and were going into areas that our limited number of volunteers could not reach as easily.
We now had our mission and put our remote Volunteers to work organizing supply orders. On our limited budget of $5,000, plus whatever additional donations flowed in while we were active (approximately $2,600 came in), we ordered and shipped to our staging area, enough supplies to produce 144 Hygiene Kits, 288 Meals and 35 Cleaning Kits as well as baby supplies (food, wipes, diapers etc.) and feminine hygiene products. The Davis’ organized a “Kittogether” party and pulled together local friends to help organize the supplies and prepare the kits for distribution. Some of those supplies were retained for “hyper-local” use by our Volunteers, and the remaining were provided to Generations United Church for direct distribution. The Church organized a group of 30 plus volunteers on 4-wheelers, that we dubbed the 4-Wheeler Brigade to ferry the supplies out to people in the rural areas whose roads or driveways were unpassable. CAC gladly provided $500 in Gift Cards for gasoline to support this ongoing effort.
The Davis’s also referred Denise Lassiter, a chainsaw workaholic who assisted the Davis’s in the Southport area with getting trees cut so people could leave their property. Denise was constantly helping people because her work had closed due to storm damage. Denise then provided us with information about an elderly couple in Calloway who needed a Wellness Check. Denise also continued to provided some excellent on the ground intel and updates to us.
Geralbin “JJ” Vinas, his partner and father were a small team from Tampa who started driving to Panama City before he even knew about CAC. A friend (a listener of The Survival Podcast), suggested he hook up with CAC, and he found us on our CAC Team Zello Channel. Luckily, we had our Safe Haven picked out! Team JJ was able to do some reconnaissance and with CAC’s help purchased a couple bags of groceries to deliver to the elderly couple in Calloway. Their team was only able to help for 2 days, but their presence was appreciated and they were so happy to have had the experience and to increase their awareness of the value of preparedness.
So Molly led us to Denise, who led us to her good friend Krista Youngberg. Krista had already started to organize her neighbors to provide free food tents in Youngstown, FL. Another one woman dynamo with great social capital. There was not a lot we could do, but we knew we wanted to be a part of Team Krista’s activities. We were able to help with the acquisition of enough ice to fill 40 coolers and some additional funds to help with misc. food tent items. Team Krista was able to feed over 2,000 people during several separate Free Food days.
Molly led us to Denise, Denise led us to Krista, and finally, Krista led us to another powerhouse of a volunteer, Peggy Davis (no relation to Molly and Dave) who also lived nearby Krista and Molly. From Peg, we learned that in her hometown of Sturgis, MI, the Grace Lutheran Church was gathering donations to fill a U-Haul truck to ship supplies into the area – even before they had a secure storage and drop off location. CAC had that covered! So one of our remote workers made direct contact to let them know we could secure and distribute any items they collected. Additionally, CAC had shared supply needs reports to Peg who gave them to the church, so the goods they sent down were excellent and appropriate. But that is not where the synchronicity stopped.
Our remote phone volunteers once again went to work, to contact our people in and around Michigan and unbelievably we found that we had a Volunteer named David Mosher, who LIVES in Sturgis, MI. Weird right? We reached out to him and he was happy to help. He also recruited a couple of buddies to help with the shopping and delivery of goods to the church. We provided David with a budget, and he and his friends went out and purchased additional supplies to help fill the truck. We arranged for the supplies to be delivered to our staging area, where local volunteers came together again to organize those supplies (Kittogether #2!) for distribution.
Peg, also had a contact at Magna Manufacturing, makers of the Loboy heavy-duty styrofoam coolers. After CAC spoke with the employee Kenny Watkins, we were able to get a donation of 198 styrofoam coolers (an important item in an area with no power!) and dozens of foam cushions which they could not use, but which could make great seat cushions or pillows to those in tents or trailers.
Kittogether #3 on 11/2/18 created 72 more cleaning kits, 47 more hygiene kits and 36 ladies purse/supplies kits were made. Purse kits? Yes. Peg and Molly got locals to donate over 30 ladies handbags into which they will be placing feminine products and items. The supplies from Sturgis, MI contained numerous purses, makeup and feminine supplies. They were a huge hit when given to female storm victims.
Additional food support activities were planned by “Team Krista” and Peg did another Kittogether where 163 MORE donated purses were filled by Peg, Molly and their local friends. These were primarily distributed by Hopepanhandle.org
There are so many more details, and too many people to thank, but a few other notable events include :
-Tina Allred helped make contact with LDS Stake Center in Panama City. Though we were not able to make deliveries this deep into the affected area, but volunteer Denise and JJ did do some reconnaissance around that area.
–Bradley from Niceville Christian Church connected us with Randy at Tri-State Christian Camp in Defuniak Springs, a 100 bed camp. Randy offered the camp as a Safe Haven for any Volunteers traveling into the area. We ended up not needing this, but it was a beautiful gesture!
–A hotel in Defuniak Springs and one in Destin, FL both donated linens. Our local teams were able to coordinate picking them up and getting them to our storage area in Freeport and from there to our distribution partner at Generations United.
As absolutely amazing as our local volunteers and their friends were, there were several behind the scenes accomplishments as well (forgive if I have forgotten any!).
A few new onboarding/training documents were created and shared via our website.
Zello remained an effective communication tool during this deployment. Glympse was not as useful, only because we 1.) had mostly locals who knew the area fully, and b.) there were many areas without cell signal.
Social media updates seemed to go smoothly led primarily by a volunteer in Scotland!
Phone calls to identify volunteers and hotel/restaurant resources were done by a few volunteers.
Moderation of the Zello channel became more streamlined, meaning fewer people were needed to manage that communications channel.
Additionally, the CAC Finance Team gave regular updates on budget progress, and contacted every single donor to acknowledge their donation. They also made sure the Magna Mfg. obtained and In Kind Donation acknowledgement for their tax records as well.
A big efficiency win with this deployment was the use of Amazon.com. How did it happen? Read Here!
The lists of supplies CAC ordered was made public and shared so that other individuals and organizations could duplicate what we did – at any time! Mostly Prime products with fast free shipping, with decent reviews. Most were items used in previous deployments, or recommended during specific types/phases of this disaster. We openly shared the costs for these items on the Resources->Volunteer Resources area of our website so as to also inspire others who were not sure what could be useful during or after a natural disaster.
Using Amazon meant less time spent by volunteers running around to find rapidly diminishing supplies and less time spent collecting receipts – a better use of time and money! Shipping in resources to the volunteers may prove to be a repeatable and efficient process for future deployments as well if conditions to do so exist.
The simple purchase authorization tracking sheet and and the reimbursement process, implemented during Hurricane Florence on the website was used to control expenses and improve budget tracking. The total deployment budget was updated daily, sometimes several times per day. Altogether, this was probably one of the smoothest deployments ever in terms of bookkeeping and accountability.
As with each Activation and Deployment, we always identify areas of success and areas where improvements are needed. Some areas of improvement we will be trying to address include:
Intel gathering & funnelling at different mission stages should be streamlined
“Chain of command” process still needs some improvement (job descriptions and organizational flow chart should be forthcoming.)
Mission Logging and Data Display – notes that other crisis coordinators need to see and share.
Volunteer management and onboarding (training)
So much true good was done. So many people local and non-local were inspired and helped than we could ever properly detail or thank. Regardless, we made the most with what we had and filled our core mission of empowering ordinary citizens to assist each other. This would not have been possible without donors and volunteers and partners of all types.
Active from: Sept 8 to approx Sept 22 Areas of activity: Durham, Fayettesville, Clinton, Warsaw, Beulaville, Pollocksville and Chinquapin Partner organizations: Cisco, City of Beulaville mayor, NC Baptists on Mission (Richard Weeks in Warsaw) Deployment activities: Supplying hygiene kits, hotel linens, food, water, baby supplies, elder care supplies and cleaning kits Amount spent: $14,745.22
Florence was our first major activation since Harvey in TX. Landfall was Wilmington, NC and due to the track it took and lack of volunteers able to deploy we weren’t able to get close to Wilmington with the exception of one volunteer who lived in Wilmington. We weren’t able to support him as we couldn’t get supplies in but he was a on the ground advising us of the area an conditions.
One Survival Podcast listener, Michelle, works at Cisco and sent out an email to several Cisconians (a terms of endearment for employees of Cisco who assisted that I pulled from the Cisco website). One of those was Bethany Duffrin. Bethany then sent another email to even more people on her team and together they had many people who stated they were interested in volunteering.
Cisco is located in Durham and due to their number of hands, availability of supplies and distance from damage they immediately became our hub of operations. Bethany, being skilled in logistics, planning and exceedingly frugal, became our primary point of contact for almost all of our efforts in NC. She ensured that money was stretched as far as she could and coordinated supply pickups from many stores with many people and was an incredible asset for us.
Supplies were run from Durham to all or almost all of our partner organizations in several cities. This required volunteers driving, in some cases, more than 2 hours to deliver supplies to the organization or city in need. An adult day care center was fully stocked with supplies., as were a shelter in Clinton and a church in Warsaw. We also sent supplies into other areas with incredible need.
I have been thinking for many years about the importance of geo-spatial asset and threat mapping. Why? Because when there is an emergency, you can’t always count on having local contacts with 1st level knowledge of the situation or geography. When moving people or goods from afar, having some reference points (and their positions relevant to each other), as well as easy contact information, can be potentially life saving. So as a test, while learning about Google Crisis Maps, I stumbled upon Google My Maps, specifically custom Google May Maps. So I create 3 of them as an experiment. I thought maybe a few dozen CAC involved people might view them. I was wrong. The maps got over 150,000 views in less than 3 weeks.
Now I’ll probably never meet any of the people who saw these maps. I really have no idea why they were viewing them. But I’d like to believe that maybe, just maybe, this CAC experiment resulted in some small real-world help to real people. Completely unintentionally. Maybe they were displaced hurricane victims, volunteers/aid groups coming from out of town or out of state to help, or maybe a locals were running from store to store looking supplies or fuel. I’ll never know. But my journey with mapping tech to support Citizens Assisting Citizens is about to get kicked up a notch based on this experiment and a few others.
Here are the custom maps themselves:
Hurricane Michael Churches
Hurricane Michael Fuel Stations
Hurricane Michael Shopping & Resupply
There are several vehicles, and CAC volunteers actively assisting in relief efforts. So far the teams have already delivered many supplies and done roadside assistance. One of the teams is moving even closer to Houston today, other efforts will be to the west and south west of Houston. We will be updating the team’s Facebook page when possible at https://www.facebook.com/CitizensAssistingCitizens/. You generous contributions are still needed. Click HERE to donate.