Disaster Intervention Strategy: A Team Effort with local, state, federal and NGOs

Just hours after the Joplin tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, an experienced team of Americorps and Senior Corps arrived in the devastated town and began relief efforts.

Within three days, the Americorps and Senior Corps team had reached 200; by one month: 300. These members were crucial in directing and managing the 60,000 volunteers that flooded the area to help Joplin make it through this disaster.

Leading the Americorps and Senior Corps relief effort was Kelly Menzi-DeGraff. She is the director of disaster services for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Her incredible contributions have made her a finalist for the Service to America Medals, which are in essence the Oscars for federal employees.

Starting Early: Menzi-DeGraff belonged to the first class of Americorps members in 1994. Her year in the program “changed the direction of (her) life”; she has been working in non-profits now for 18 years.

The Joplin tornado, which hit the town in May of 2011, was the nation’s deadliest tornado in over six decades. It was responsible for 161 fatalities and the destruction of 7,000 businesses and homes.

Menzi-DeGraff told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that since Katrina, relief organizations have been “really building these coalitions and building these relationships so that when something such as the Joplin tornado hits the ground, the relationships are already there.”

An example of coordination: within the first three hours on site, her members were able to set up a hotline and volunteer reception center in a space offered by the Southeast Missouri State University. The hotline offered immediate help to victims looking for loved ones and the volunteer reception center was imperative in receiving the thousands of volunteers and assigning them to an Americorps leader who would allot tasks.

For more on the Corporation of National and Community Service, visit: the National Service website.

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