Press-Republican

Tuesday

December 10, 2013

United Way launches Disaster Preparedness Program

PLATTSBURGH — United Way of the Adirondack Region Inc. is developing a program aimed at better coordinating and preparing the region’s volunteers for disaster situations.

The Disaster Preparedness Program will be an extension of the existing North Country Regional Volunteer Center and, like the center itself, will serve Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

“This program really is a collaboration and emphasizes partnership to a great extent,” United Way Executive Director John Bernardi said at a media conference Monday at the organization’s Plattsburgh office.

RECRUITING VOLUNTEERS

As part of the effort, he noted, United Way will be working with numerous government agencies and nonprofit organizations, including the American Red Cross, departments of emergency management and mental-health agencies, as well as tradesmen and professionals, in each county.

“We’ll be working closely together with them to help recruit and train and place volunteers,” Bernardi said. “We will be seeking their advice and guidance along the way.”

ENHANCED GRANT

The program is funded by a $50,000 grant from the New York State Commission of National and Community Service, which, he noted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was instrumental in helping to secure.

The Regional Volunteer Center was originally developed to increase volunteerism across the state and was very successful in doing so, garnering over 1 million volunteers, according to Amy Kretser, outreach coordinator for United Way of the Adirondack Region.

“When Gov. Cuomo saw the need to enhance the disaster preparedness in terms of volunteerism, he added a grant onto to the same structure of the (North Country Regional Volunteer Center) across the state that would allow us to use the infrastructure that’s already been so successful at recruiting volunteers,” she said.

SETTING UP DATABASE

The program will establish a database, making it easier to coordinate help in the wake of a natural disaster or human-made crisis.

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