By Marcy Stamper
At least three full-time disaster case managers will be hired to help people displaced by the fire get one-on-one assistance for their most urgent needs.
The Community Foundation of North Central Washington is investing $100,000 from its general fund to pay for the specialists. They will be located in Twisp at Room One, in Okanogan at the Okanogan County Community Action Council, and in Pateros at the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC), a place for “one-stop shopping” that will be housed in the old grocery store there.
Room One and Community Action are coordinating the hiring and supervision of the case mangers, according to Adrianne Moore, interim executive director at Room One. Fundraising will be ongoing to ensure that the case managers are available as long as needed, said Moore.
The case managers will assist people with immediate and longer-term needs, from gas vouchers to debris removal to applying for loans and financial aid. They will draw on partnerships with federal and state agencies, national disaster groups such as the Red Cross, and religious groups and other charitable organizations, said Moore.
In addition, the Community Foundation and the other social-service groups will be developing criteria to equitably disburse donations from a fund set up for fire relief and unmet needs. The North Central Washington Fire Relief Fund has collected $235,000 to date, according to the Community Foundation.
For more information or to meet with a case manager, call Room One at 997-2050 or Community Action at (509) 422-4021. People can work with case managers at any location that is convenient. Room One hopes to have a case manager on staff next week.
The new long-term recovery organization, now called Methow Valley Long-Term Recovery, got started this week with Hank Cramer at the helm as the executive director.
The group will focus on longer-term needs and disaster preparedness in the Methow Valley School District. Pateros will form a separate organization in the Pateros School District, which goes as far north as Gold Creek, said Cramer.
The Methow group will help homeowners and businesses with loans and grants. They will also focus on improving infrastructure to be better prepared for any future disasters. That will include electricity and internet, phone service for land lines and cell phones, and more reliable emergency communications including 911, said Cramer.
The organization will help businesses plan so that they can keep operating during a power outage or reopen sooner if they do have to close, said Cramer.
“We’re focusing on how to absorb damage and plan, so that the next time this happens—and there will be a next time—we can dampen the effects,” said Cramer.
The group’s first task is providing additional information to support the state’s appeal of the recent denial of assistance to individuals by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
While a primary focus is long-term recovery, Methow Valley Long-Term Recovery will also work on more-immediate needs, said Moore.
Finding housing for people displaced by the fire remains high on the list of priorities, particularly with the approaching colder weather and already short supply of rental housing, said Moore. They are looking for solutions that will keep people in the area and kids in their school district.
Red Cross caseworkers continue to assist people affected by the fire. They will work with the new case managers and other local partners, said Nicolle LaFleur, executive director of the Apple Valley and North Cascades Chapter of the Red Cross.
For assistance from the Red Cross, call their national line at (571) 205-3464; they will connect you with a local caseworker.