A disaster relief fund opened by Callaway County earlier this month received its first donation Feb. 5.
Starting weeks after a fire destroyed the Evergreen Condos in Holts Summit, the fund will be used to help families displaced by the blaze and other future victims of disasters in the county.
The Callaway County Disaster Relief Fund currently holds two donations totaling $1,463, according to county Treasurer Deborah Zerr. The account opened Feb. 1.
People interested in making a donation can mail funds to the treasurer's office at 10 E. 5 St., Room 109, Fulton, MO 65251. Checks should be made to the Callaway County Treasurer's office with a note marking it for the disaster relief fund.
Michelle Kidwell, Callaway County Emergency Operations Center director, said the policy to create the fund was made five or six years ago but was not to be acted upon until a donation was received.
"I sat down with the commission and told them that in the event that there was ever a disaster, large-scale or whatever, that happened in Callaway County, that it might be a good idea to have a fund set up where we can help those in our own community," she said.
The fund will come into play whenever a large-scale disaster that requires a long-term recovery occurs within the county, sh said. It could be when Callaway County declares a disaster, following an event like a tornado or flood, or when an individual city is affected.
Some of the 40 people displaced by the Jan. 21 Evergreen Condos fire already are contacting the county to take advantage of the fund. Any victim of the fire who wants to request funds can contact the Community Organizations Active in Disasters chair at 573-642-5750 or the Callaway County Office of Emergency Management at 573-592-2480.
"We wanted to do something that would keep the money in Callaway County to be used in our community for victims of disasters or large scale emergencies," Kidwell said. " There are people that are always looking to donate money to good causes, so by setting up this fund, it just allows up to be able to keep the funds within the county and use it on our own communities."
The first donation came from another fund set up by a local resident, Rebecca Shobey, to help victims of the Evergreen Condos fire. After creating an account for the Evergreen Benefit Fund with Central Bank, she posted on Facebook to encourage people to donate.
But Shobey's plans to create a board to manage the fund dissipated quickly. Realizing the liability she had taken on, Shobey said, she then reached out to the county to donate the money raised by the Evergreen Benefit Fund, totalling $1,213, to the Callaway County Disaster Relief Fund.
An individual donated an additional $250 to bring the disaster fund to its current amount.
If all of the money donated after a disaster is not used, it will be saved for future emergencies, Kidwell said. However, the county agreed to use all of the money donated from the Evergreen Benefit Fund to assist victims of the Holts Summit fire.
Kidwell said the decision to let funds stay in the account for future disasters is based on other communities' struggles to use all of the outpouring of funds following a tragedy.
When a disaster hits, Kidwell said the Community Organizations Active in Disasters goes into long-term recovery mode. After a victim's immediate needs are met, there are often specific needs, such as eyeglasses, medical equipment or prescriptions, they need to afford.
When a person requests money from the Callaway County Disaster Relief Fund, the county will check to make sure they are a victim. Then, the Community Organizations Active in Disasters long-term recovery committee will review the request for merit and, on approval, send the request to Kidwell. Once she approves it, the request will go to the county commissioners for final approval and a court order will be sent to the county treasurer to release the funds.
Kidwell said there is no goal to have a standing balance in the fund, although cushion for the next crisis is always nice. Instead, she said she recommends the county advertise the fund in the aftermath of a disaster.