The state Department of Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) is sending more of its members to Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The deployment is part of the federal AmeriCorps’ ongoing relief and recovery for areas affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last September.
Other WCC crews have served in those areas. AmeriCorps draws from its state service corps affiliates nationwide to aid the federal response to major disaster.
The WCC crews will continue and extend ongoing assistance, especially in rural areas where homes, transportation and power systems were ravaged by winds, rain and downed trees.
Ecology is now readying its largest disaster deployment since the WCC was created in 1984. By next week, 114 WCC members will be joining forces with more than 2,200 other AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team members in the Caribbean and Florida.
“Our mission is to assist underserved communities affected by disasters,” said WCC program manager Nick Mott. “We are committed to helping our fellow Americans return to their homes and rebuild their communities.”
Returning people to their homes
During their current deployment, WCC members will help residents still living in shelters or temporary housing move back into their homes by using chainsaws to remove trees posing a hazard.
To keep dangerous mold from growing in walls, ceilings and floorboards, WCC members will help residents strip their homes down to the studs and make minor repairs such as installing roof tarps. Members also will help manage volunteers and food donations.
On Jan. 11, a team of 48 WCC members will arrive in Puerto Rico. WCC crews have been working in Puerto Rico since just a few weeks after Hurricane Maria slammed the island Sept. 20, 2017. WCC and other AmeriCorps disaster teams have already cleared more than 2,700 cubic yards of debris, removed nearly 500 hazardous trees and distributed more than 20,000 gallons of clean drinking water.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Next week, another team of 48 WCC members are headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands to oversee response operations on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. Since October 2017, AmeriCorps teams have collected or distributed more than 51,000 pounds of food and assessed more than 80 homes for storm damage from Maria and Irma.
A team of 18 WCC members arrived in Florida on Jan. 5 to provide short-term recovery efforts and coordinate long-term recovery with local volunteer partners. Since early October 2017, AmeriCorps teams have performed more than 1,800 safety and wellness checks and installed temporary roof tarps or made other repairs on more than 200 homes.
WCC on the front lines
Ecology’s WCC AmeriCorps members respond to local and national disasters, assisting communities after fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, oil spills and more. WCC crew supervisors are often tapped to lead and train AmeriCorps members from across the country during deployments.
In addition to providing disaster response services, WCC members plant 1 million trees annually and build or repair more than 400 miles of trail and boardwalk throughout the state while gaining leadership skills.