June 20, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Grant will help coordinate Lane County community organizations for disaster response

5 min read
Lane County's Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) hopes to expand from 50 organizations in the Eugene-Springfield area to 150 organizations across Lane County.

The Lane County COAD received a $155,000 public health equity grant.

Cary Lieberman (Lane County Community Organizations Active in Disaster chair): So for the COAD, most of what we do when not responding to disaster is about resilience and building networks. The most recent exciting thing is the grant that we received, looking to essentially hire a contract coordinator to take us from our approximately 50 organizations that are primarily Eugene/Springfield-centric, to around 150 organizations that are more representative of the fullness of our county, make sure that we have little hubs in each location, so that if we see another disaster countywide, there’s going to be isolation, and that the key is really to communicate, network, and, identify resources and bring in resources to all of the communities, so that they have them beforehand.

[00:01:01] John Q: The grants will help transform the COAD into a sustainable organization.

[00:01:07] Selene Jaramillo: I’m Selene Jaramillo. I am the Lane County Public Health emergency preparedness coordinator…  I think that what we are missing is a structure, and that’s what the COAD grant is trying to organize a little bit better, a little more robust: Something that is a sustainable structure. But that coordinating infrastructure and that development of that structure is what we need to really move into the next level and become more of a thing that has staff, that is paid, building up the COAD as a more structured organization, that can, for example, receive donations, and will have a volunteer training program.

[00:01:56] John Q: The United Way also announced a new program to sign up community volunteers.

[00:02:02] Emilyn Bell (United Way, volunteer engagement coordinator): My name is Emilyn Bell. I am the volunteer engagement coordinator with United Way of Lane County, and today we wanted to chat briefly and update you all on United Way’s movement when it comes to volunteerism and disaster relief response.

[00:02:14] I’m sure as many of you know, United Way is involved in various aspects and sectors within our community, whether that be educational institutions, other nonprofit organizations and agencies, businesses, and government entities.

[00:02:27] We are out there just trying to form relationships and bring folks to the table to discuss common issues. We know that a resilient community requires communication and that community problems require communitywide solutions. And so we really pride ourselves on bringing both to the table.

Just to briefly touch on our disaster relief response, United Way first became active in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and then shortly thereafter in response to the Holiday Farm Fire.

[00:02:55] In the past, United Way’s involvement in disaster response has been focused on collecting financial donations and getting dollars out to the organizations that are doing the work on the ground. We are actively responding through our Community Response Fund, which is dollars that are specifically designated to respond to community disasters.

[00:03:11] We still plan to play that role, but we also feel like we’re well positioned to serve as a home for volunteers in the event of a disaster. I’m sure it’s no secret that volunteerism in general has kind of been on the decline since the pandemic, and so United Way’s response to that is to hire a full-time volunteer coordinator, myself, to respond to community needs such as volunteerism.

[00:03:32] So we have been able to amp up some of our volunteer programs as well as create new ones. So for example, last year for ‘Days of Caring’ in September, we had over 800 volunteers come out across three days, and this was serving 60 projects and 30 agencies. We were able to reinvest over $100,000 back into Lane County, just with volunteer time.

[00:03:53] And I think that’s a huge testament to our community’s willingness to respond to need when there is one. United Way doesn’t have a lot of outward-facing programs ourselves, and as the conveners and collaborators, it is my job to not recruit volunteers necessarily for United Way, but to be the matchmaker between nonprofit organizations, businesses, individuals, families, whoever it may be.

[00:04:12] So I try to find matchmaking. Somebody comes to me looking for a volunteer position, I’m trying to find the right opportunity that meets both the volunteer’s needs as well as the agency’s needs when it comes to volunteerism.

[00:04:23] We have also recently restarted our ‘Volunteer Coordinators Network,‘ which is a space for volunteer coordinators in nonprofit agencies across the county to get together for a space of shared learning and opportunity, a place to network and really kind of convene and collaborate around the issues that we have when it comes to volunteerism.

[00:04:40] So we are actively recruiting folks for this network, and we’re also just having this space for shared networking,

[00:04:46] We have a volunteer website that is kind of the backbone for volunteerism, or at least we hope it to be here soon in the future. Organizations are able to go on and post opportunities for their volunteer needs. And folks in the community are able to go browse through all of these volunteer opportunities and kind of choose the one that’s right for them.

[00:05:05] We all know how difficult it is sometimes to find volunteer positions, to have to go to every organization’s website, and there are organizations that we might not know exist.

[00:05:13] So to have everything in one place where all organizations in the county can benefit from, and it’s easy for community members to know where to go for volunteer opportunities. We hope to expand this. We’re continuing to work on it every day.

[00:05:25] We’re going to have an opt-in option when folks sign up for a profile to be contacted in case of a disaster. And we just, we really have hope that this is going to be the place that everybody knows to go in case of a disaster or just in general for volunteerism.

[00:05:39] We ask that you sign up for an organization profile and post your opportunities now so that you can benefit from this.

[00:05:44] John Q: A new era for the Lane County COAD, and the United Way steps up to promote volunteerism. To sign up, contact Emilyn Bell.

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