WINCHESTER — When disaster hits, who responds?

That’s a question the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity and city-based Global Emergency Group didn’t want to leave for others to worry about, particularly after a 1,000-year flood event killed 23 people in West Virginia in 2016, destroying and damaging hundreds of homes.

The “dysfunction” of the response to that flooding prompted Habitat for Humanity of Winchester, Frederick and Clarke to write a disaster preparedness response into its three-year plan to avoid “what happens when things are not coordinated,” Habitat Re-store director Cathleen Henderson said on Thursday.

On April 15 a tornado, with winds of more than 130 miles per hour, severely damaged about 140 homes in Amherst County. The executive director of Amherst County’s Habitat for Humanity chapter has taken on the role of coordinator of disaster relief, putting out a call for help and supplies.

“We are actually the only Habitat in the state that is producing this kind of support,” local executive director Matt Peterson said as Habitat volunteers went over an inventory of supplies to be sent to Amherst County from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore at 400 Battaile Drive on Thursday.

Habitat for Humanity International is also providing aid to Amherst County, Peterson said.

Two pallets of lighting, four pallets of kitchen and bathroom sinks, one pallet of HVAC items, one pallet of bathtubs, one pallet of laminate counter tops and one pallet of 2-by-4 sticks were loaded into a truck provided by Global Emergency Group to carry down to Amherst County where they will be used to reconstruct homes damaged by the spring storms.

All of the materials come from community donations, some from individuals and others from businesses like Ferguson Enterprises in Warren County.

“We are incredibly grateful to the community,” Henderson said. “None of this would be possible [without donations].”

Peterson said the Amherst County project is the first coordination between Habitat and Global Emergency Group, which typically organizes volunteer relief aid to places like Haiti and Africa. “This is hopefully the start of more of a partnership.”

Global Emergency Group president Langdon Greenhalgh said he has been expanding his firm’s primarily international focus to include domestic aid to like Puerto Rico and Texas.

“We definitely want to be able to [help] when people’s homes are affected by a disaster,” Greenhalgh said at the ReStore.

Pete Fravel, who manages the ReStore, said the people in Amherst County have put out a call for specific items. “We don’t want to send them a lot of stuff they can’t use,” he said.

If the Habitat in Amherst County puts out a call for more materials, the local chapter may ask the community for donations, he said.

– Contact Onofrio Castiglia at ocastiglia@winchesterstar.com

(1) comment

This was a wonderful and much needed response to our April 15th tornado. The families were so appreciative of the support. Most were insured but with current building cost, many are finding that they are drastically under-insured! Thank you all!

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