County Response to Isabel Crosses Agency Lines


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12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 551
Fairfax, VA 22035-0065
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Oct. 3, 2003

 

County Response to Isabel Crosses Agency Lines
Agencies partner with civic associations and Volunteer Fairfax

 

Even though Hurricane Isabel came through Fairfax County two weeks ago and many of the visible affects of the storm, such as downed tree limbs and loss of power are gone, much of the damage caused by Isabel is still being felt by area residents. Some of that damage is not visible to the casual observer.

That is why several county agencies teamed up last week and went door-to-door through the Belle View and New Alexandria neighborhoods to identify needs within those communities. County staff also worked with adjacent neighborhoods to find ways to meet those needs.

The county's departments of Systems Management for Human Services, Family Services and Housing and Community Development, along with mental health and Community Services Board staff, teamed with the Community Resilience Project to canvass the hardest hit areas in Fairfax County, visiting residents each day beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

"We sent teams into the community to check on how people were doing and see if there was any way the county could be of assistance," said Ken Disselkoen, manager for human services in region one. "It was actually easy to coordinate these teams. Everyone came together because they truly wanted to help in any way they could."

These county teams kept lists of individual needs and coordinated those with Volunteer Fairfax, which provided volunteers both during and after the storm. During the storm, Volunteer Fairfax volunteers helped staff the county's 24/7 emergency information hotline (703-817-7771) beginning on Thursday, Sept. 18. They also staffed the information center at the Mount Vernon RECenter, which the county opened on Saturday, Sept. 20, to provide localized information to residents of the New Alexandria and Belle View neighborhoods. In the days following Isabel, these volunteers have shifted their focus to moving furniture, cleaning out basements, moving trash and assisting residents in many other ways.

"The effort has been amazing," said Jane Kornblut, executive director of Volunteer Fairfax. "The diversity of the kinds of groups that have come together and worked together to make it happen has been amazing to see," added Kornblut. "I know we couldn't have done it alone; nobody could have done it alone."

Volunteers also worked at a neighborhood clean-up day on Saturday, Sept. 27. The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department supplied plastic boots, masks and work gloves to approximately 70 volunteers on hand. Volunteer Fairfax equipped each volunteer with an ID bracelet and hat so residents would know they were legitimate sources of help and the volunteer teams fulfilled the community needs county staff had ascertained during the week. An additional 24 county staff members from Systems Management, Family Services and Mental Health also divided into teams to canvass the Belle View and New Alexandria neighborhoods looking for additional ways to help.

"County staff literally walked the streets to learn of needs," said Kornblut adding, "and the area Homeowners Associations really came together and helped spearhead the need for volunteers."

Geri Storm, team leader with the Community Resilience Project, a service of the Fairfax Falls-Church Community Service Board, said they also still have staff involved in providing services.

"Some people are still numb about their losses while others are just mad about the situation," said Storm. "We try to talk to people and remind them that they have resilience within themselves to get through this situation and many times they just need someone that they can talk to."

The Community Resilience Project, which provides crisis counseling, stress management tips and community presentations, will also hold a support group meeting this Wednesday, Oct. 8, from 7 - 8:30 p.m. at the Messiah Lutheran Church, 6510 Fort Hunt Road, Alexandria. The first meeting of the group was held this past Wednesday and meetings will continue as long as residents feel they need the service.

"I think people have just needed information and someone to talk to," added Storm, "and they are appreciative of the county staff being onsite, listening to their needs and learning more about their situation following the hurricane."

Disselkoen added that Fairfax County is still involved in the aftermath of Isabel, continuing to work with residents in need and find ways to help, especially with elderly residents or those with health issues. "It's wonderful to see how county staff has responded to this situation," Disselkoen said. "They have laid their agency affiliations aside, worked together as a team and have been tireless in going out and helping the community."

Residents wishing to volunteer may contact Volunteer Fairfax at 703-246-3460, TTY 711, or visit their Web site at www.volunteerfairfax.org. Volunteer Fairfax also continues to accept donations of clothes and furniture through their Web site for persons affected by Hurricane Isabel.

FAIRFAX COUNTY IS COMMITTED TO A POLICY OF NONDISCRIMINATION IN ALL COUNTY PROGRAMS, SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES AND WILL PROVIDE REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS UPON REQUEST. TO REQUEST SPECIAL ACCOMMODATIONS, CALL 703-324-3187, TTY 703-324-2935. PLEASE ALLOW FIVE WORKING DAYS IN ADVANCE OF EVENTS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE NECESSARY ARRANGEMENTS

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