Kentucky tornado recovery expected to last two to four years

OWENSBORO, Kentucky — Families in Western Kentucky continue to deal with the impact of December’s tornadoes that tore through several communities as a Catholic charity agency walks with them along the way.

Susan Montalvo-Gesser, director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Owensboro, said tornado recovery is both “short term and long term.”

Recovery efforts are expected to take two to four years, she told Western Kentucky Catholic, the diocesan newspaper.

Short-term needs include shelter, clothing and medical assistance. Long-term needs include repairing and rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed by storms.

Catholic Charities provided financial assistance through gift cards distributed by parishes.

Help is also available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and through a Small Business Administration loan program. The deadline to apply for both is February 11.

Montalvo-Gesser said FEMA registrations reached 14,800.

She said her agency was working with long-term recovery organizations in 12 tornado-affected counties as well as with storm survivors in a 13th county not included in the designated federal disaster area but which sustained damage. by the storm.

“We will have the CAP (Diocese Offered Counseling Assistance Program) and other crisis counseling available to all tornado survivors,” she said. “We will have this emotional and spiritual care.”

Montalvo-Gesser said the average FEMA award people receive is about $9,000, but the maximum FEMA award for those who lost “absolutely everything” is $36,000.

“Now can you build a house on it?” No, you can’t,” she said.

This is where Catholic Charities will step in, helping people across Western Kentucky heal and slowly rebuild their lives.

Montalvo-Gesser encouraged Catholic business owners, especially those who sell lumber and building materials, to consider offering supplies at a lower cost. Catholic Charities also plans to coordinate with area parishes to house volunteers and prepare meals for those helping with the reconstruction.

The agency director also thanked Bishop of Owensboro William F. Medley and “all the good people who generously gave of their time and talent to help.”

“It’s just amazing,” she said.

Montalvo-Gesser also said the influx of monetary donations from across the country has been incredible, but noted that because the work will continue for years to come, she hopes the cash donations will continue.

In addition to tornado recovery, Catholic Charities must continue day-to-day operations such as providing immigration legal services, homeless resources, and crisis pregnancy care, which includes the St. Gerard Life Home in Owensboro.

Montalvo-Gesser relies on donations to operate these other ministries as well.

“My goal is to rebuild 350 homes, but Catholic Charities cannot do it alone,” she said. “We are like the boy with the loaves and fishes, but if the boy with the loaves and fishes is not there, people are not fed.”

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To learn more about ways to help, call the McRaith Catholic Center at (270) 683-1545.

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Barnstead is editor of Western Kentucky Catholic, the newspaper of the Diocese of Owensboro.

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