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story.lead_photo.caption Residents observe damaged cars and homes Thursday after a tornado caused severe damage along both sides of Capitol Avenue. The National Weather Service ruled Wednesday's tornado as an EF-3 with peak winds reaching 160 mph. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

Emergency personnel and local nonprofits have formed a Long-Term Recovery Committee to help provide services for disaster victims in Cole and Miller counties.

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And, it could use some help.

The committee is looking for volunteers to serve on subcommittees. It is asking for people who have experience with behavioral health, case management, construction project management, home repairs and construction, fundraising, spiritual or emotional help, or volunteer management, according to a United Way of Central Missouri news release.

The committee is to serve those affected by a tornado that first touched down late May 22 in Miller County. The twister ripped through part of Eldon and continued up through Cole County. It eventually went through a strip of East Jefferson City, before crossing the Missouri River and dissipating. The committee will also serve people affected by flooding that started in the spring and continued through much of the summer.

Ann Bax, president of the local United Way organization, and Willard Haley, a retired administrator from the Eldon School District, are to be co-chairs of the committee, Bax said.

Under leadership of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency and with the collaboration of city and county leaders, the United Way's Unmet Needs group is to serve as a Community Organizations Active in Disaster. COADs may provide a number of functions, according to the University of Missouri, including sheltering, feeding and providing relief supplies for victims. It may also provide long-term recovery case management, rebuilding, repair, mental health services, health services, and volunteer and donation management.

"After the immediate response of the American Red Cross — with shelters and setting up the Multi-Agency Resource Center — the United Way convened the Unmet Needs Committee within 10 days of the tornado," Bax said.

The Unmet Needs Committee is a community-wide gathering of health and human service organizations and faith-based groups that meet monthly to network, share resources and provide case discussions, she said. It originally formed in response to 1993 flooding.

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Within Unmet Needs, a short-term recovery committee was formed and met weekly through July — dissolving when the LTRC was created.

"Our LTRC is in the formative stages," Bax said. "The governing board has been appointed, and the group is working on bylaws and to recruit subcommittee members."

To learn more, attend one of two information sessions. The first is at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at Memorial Baptist Church, 1120 Madison St., in Jefferson City.

The second is 6:30 p.m., Aug. 27 at the Eldon Community Center, 209 E. 2nd St., in Eldon.

For questions, contact Tricia Barrett at barrettpr@missouri.edu or Lynda Zimmerman at zimmermanl@missouri.edu.

The committees are intended to help manage victims' recovery.

The first layer of recovery is insurance, Bax said. The next layer is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"If people don't register with FEMA, they'll be more dependant on local resources," Bax said. "To get the maximum support, we want them to register with FEMA."

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A concern, she said, is people will miss out on federal funding and cause an unnecessary drain on local resources.

"What FEMA can't do for survivors — that's where Catholic Charities of Central and Northeast Missouri and the LTRC will get involved."

Catholic Charities is conducting case management — connecting victims with resources. The cases are kept highly confidential, Bax said.

Organizers of the recovery efforts have run into a frustration: not being able to get people to contact FEMA and report their disaster-related losses.

Only 390 households in Cole County have registered with FEMA. Only 122 in Miller County have. It is estimated hundreds more qualify for FEMA assistance, Bax said.

"There's a pretty good gap there," she said. "Everyone needs to apply for FEMA."

Many will get denial letters, but keep that letter.

FEMA may require some small piece of information that the application didn't include.

"If you get a denial letter, keep it," Bax said. "You need to take it to the local FEMA people and let them walk through it with you. Many times, they'll help you appeal it, and you'll get some sort of award."

It's not easy, and there's no "magic wand," she continued.

To register, call 1-800-621-3362 or visit disasterassistance.gov.

Or go to the Cole County/Jefferson City Emergency Management Office at 1736 Southridge Drive. Office hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

The deadline to register is Sept. 9.

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