BY JACLYN ROSE –
April 9, 2009 is a date no citizen of Polk County is quick to forget. On that day, a devastating storm swept through this small community dropping deadly tornados. On the morning of April 10, 2009 people woke up to a new landscape, a new Polk County in many ways, but from this storm came a unity and a sense of community pride that went over and above. Neighbors helped neighbors, strangers became friends, no one was untouched and no one was above receiving help. Through the darkest of days the citizens of Polk County displayed an unwavering strength and the result has been a more unified and more beautiful place to call home.
In the days directly following the storm, Keith Rose, Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Potter and founding chairman of the Polk County Long Term Recovery Committee (PCLTRC) called Jamie Reeves with the Office of Emergency Management and asked him how the Ouachita Baptist Association could assist in the clean-up, Jamie responded that he would like a meeting set up with all of the area pastors. Phone calls were made and in that meeting virtually every local denomination was present. Jamie asked the group to begin coordinating needs and resources and that is exactly what the group did. “We worked almost like matchmakers, if someone needed storm windows we would match them up with a local organization that had the windows, and then coordinate volunteers to help them install the windows,” explained Rose.
As the group began working they were encouraged by FEMA to create a formal Long Term Recovery Committee and the PCLTRC was established. The group, made up of various Pastors and lay people from many local denominations came together in an unprecedented way to help pick up the pieces of Polk County. “The success of the effort had to do with Christians from varying traditions coming together with varying cause to make a significant difference in a shattered community,” said Rose. “It has been amazing to watch how this organization has pulled together so many different people from different organizations to serve in crisis,” added Victor Rowell, PCLTRC board member.
PCLTRC worked close with FEMA, as well as many other large relief organizations to offer recovery relief for homeowners, specifically the uninsured or the underinsured. The committee managed over 500 cases from minor relief to the complete construction of four new homes. They managed hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources donated from many generous organizations and coordinated hundreds of volunteers from across the country, including the New York Says Thank You Group. Trained case workers from many churches and denominations worked tirelessly to assist on an individual level, almost every church and organization in Polk County assisted in some way.
The work done by the PCLTRC was so effective and efficient the group has served as a model for other communities in crisis. Not only has the committee as a whole served as a consultant to FEMA but several board members have gone on to assist in other relief agencies and organizations. Today the group continues to meet regularly and is always looking for new and different ways to serve Polk County through emergency preparedness trainings and in response to any natural disaster. “The PCLTRC has chosen to stay together as a 501-C-3 organization and will continue to serve Polk County by preparing, educating and assisting in disaster recovery,” explained current chairwoman, Lori Harrison. “We have also had the privilege to reach out to Scott County after the flood in 2013. Out of tragedy, Polk County came together to make our community an even better place to live.”