Volunteers of America's Assistance During Natural Disasters
A decade ago, I had recently joined Volunteers of America as CEO of our Texas affiliate when Hurricane Katrina barreled toward the Gulf Coast. Hundreds of our clients in New Orleans, many of them elderly or physically disabled, had to be hastily evacuated to Houston for what at the time was expected to be a three- or four-day exile. Before the storm made landfall, we had no idea of the destruction that was soon to come, with levees breaking and flood waters covering much of New Orleans. Ultimately, as we now know, the exile was much longer. The last of our clients to return home left Texas in late October, two months after Hurricane Katrina moved through.
During those first few days and the two months that followed, the Volunteers of America family did what we always do in times of great need and crisis – we rallied together and worked day and night to help each other and support the vulnerable people we serve. Affiliates from Texas to Kentucky pitched in to house displaced clients, send supplies and provide their expertise. When hotels in Houston could no longer house our displaced New Orleans clients, we worked together to find new places for them to stay. We pooled our collective resources to contact family members and locate apartments and other temporary living arrangements.
While we always try to take a localized, program-by-program approach to serving our clients' unique needs, there remains a great value to the network that comes from being part of a national organization the size of Volunteers of America. No matter the crisis at hand, no one in our organization is ever alone. This month, as we observe the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I'm reminded of the cooperation and dedication demonstrated by the Volunteers of America family during those harrowing days. These efforts demonstrated our people at their best, and I remain immensely proud to be part of such a wonderful group.