Recovery from natural disasters like Ida often takes months or years

Natural disasters like Hurricane Ida challenge people in profound and difficult ways, but people respond in profound and inspirational ways.

Julia Menzo, director of community outreach for Lutheran Congregational Services, and Lutheran Disaster Response in Eastern PA, has witnessed the perseverance of people after they endured one of the worst events in their lives.

“Everyone is trying to do whatever they can on their own,” Julia reflects. “No one is looking for a handout. They’re trying to do what they can to help themselves and their neighbors, like remove wet items from their home, or address transportation issues because they lost a car.”

Last fall, Hurricane Ida caused historic flooding and damage in eastern Pennsylvania. The storm displaced thousands of families. Local communities, churches, and nonprofits acted fast to help those affected find housing and clean out their homes.

Disaster relief relies on quick action by federal, state, and local institutions. These institutions help people with their immediate needs. The needs include housing, healthcare, and damage assessment. As time passes, unmet needs remain. “After all the federal and community help settles, and unmet needs still exist, LCS/LDR comes in to help,” Julia shares.

In the fall, the Philadelphia Foundation awarded Lutheran Congregational Services a $30,000 grant for Hurricane Ida Relief. The funds will help storm victims get back on their feet.

LCS/LDR case manager Linda Frey is helping a Berks County family in need. “Linda is working with local and state agencies to identify resources to help address the transportation and other long term needs of this family, all of which were exacerbated by Ida flooding.” Julia says.

Julia expects to find more families with unmet needs as late as spring and summer. “There’s a rule of thumb that 10% of all the FEMA registrations will have ongoing long term unmet needs related to the disaster,” she explains. Unmet needs from the storm might relate to structural damage to homes, mold growth, replacement of drywall, and restoring electrical and plumbing systems.

“The whole point of case management is that we’re trying to identify everyone, not just people who hear about us—we’re trying to get to everyone,” Julia emphasizes. “By helping families develop their own recovery plan, the survivor is empowered to both see a path forward in their own recovery and have someone by their side through the process.”