More than 18 months after the floods of September 2008, Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana continues to find local residents in need to help and is attracting volunteers to repair flood-damaged homes.
Funding for LARRI comes from two grants by the Lilly Foundation, awarded through the Indiana Natural Disaster Fund and the Indiana Association of United Ways.
At LARRI's quarterly meeting Monday in Portage, staff members gave reports on progress being made and the challenges that still lie ahead.
The largely volunteer organization started with United Ways of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties and community groups has contacted nearly 13,000 of the people who filed for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance following the flood. The last 5,000 people will be contacted during a phone blitz within three to four weeks, said Jane Delligatti, LARRI director.
"This is a continuing mission to help victims of the flood," Delligatti said. "We've ramped up our ability to help people. We're handling about 75 cases a week and closing 20 cases a week."
To date, LARRI recovery specialists have completed 2,155 cases.
"We have about 300 active cases and another 850 are not yet assigned," said Donna George, LARRI communications coordinator. "We are still finding new cases of people who need help."
Volunteers are currently working at 75 work sites in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, George said. Two homes have been rebuilt in Munster and Dyer and another is under way in Lake Station.
LARRI also has begun a relocation program centered in Lake Station.
"We're relocating families to homes in their community. That is better financially for some people than rebuilding or repairing their flooded homes," George said. "In finding them a home, we keep the children in the same school district."
To date, 13 families have been relocated.
LARRI also staffs a satellite office in the Gary Neighborhood Service Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The two recovery specialists working there work with about 125 people each month. About 45 new cases are opened each month.
The quarterly meeting was attended by more than 50 people, many of whom have been connected with LARRI since its inception.
"We're struggling to get local volunteers," Dellagatti said. A number of volunteer groups from across the nation are helping with repairs and home rebuilding.
Americorps volunteers arrive on April 29 to help out for six weeks.
More than 400 youth volunteers will be in Northwest Indiana for a week this summer from two faith-based organizations, Southern Baptist World and Lutheran Hands. They will be assigned to LARRI work sites and other projects in East Chicago, Gary, Lake Station and Portage.
Teams from the Brethren Disaster Ministries also have been volunteering since LARRI was organized, she said.
"They told us they'll be here until it's all done."
LARRI honors its volunteers at the Champions of Hope Volunteer Dinner tonight at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Merrillville