We are comforted knowing community heroes and organizations are ready, able to help
Published 12:22 pm Friday, February 21, 2020
For a number of years now, I have had the pleasure of serving as a member of the United Way of West Central Mississippi’s Board of Directors and served as chairman of the board in 2018.
And while lately my participation on that board has been chipped away by work, children’s activities and “life,” my appreciation and commitment to the United Way’s mission and the work of its partner agencies have never wained.
This past Wednesday, the United Way held its annual membership meeting, honoring the volunteers, agencies, board members and community leaders who have both helped the United Way and helped our community.
It was a celebration to say the least.
But, it was also a time to reflect on a challenging year; a year where the staff of the United Way worked to fill the needs of so many people affected by last year’s historic Yazoo Backwater Area Flood.
In that, the board of directors decided to honor those who worked tirelessly to save lives and property during the months-long flood with the Spirit of Vicksburg Award, which I was honored to present to Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer.
Below is just a portion of the speech I gave in looking back over last year’s flood and the work so many did in response.
It was “The Flood” — capital “T”, capital “F.”
It was not the flood of 1927 or the flood of 2011. It was the Yazoo Backwater Area Flood of 2019; or what many of us have called it and penned, “The Forgotten Flood.”
This time last year, we were only barely becoming aware of the threat, the rising water. We had no idea what the next six months would hold.
We did not appreciate the disaster that was unfolding, nor did we fully appreciate the number of acres, wildlife and buildings that were about to be affected. We didn’t realize the lives that were about to be so severely affected.
As I was preparing these comments leading up to the presentation in a moment of our annual Spirit of Vicksburg Award, I found it hard to believe that it has been a year already.
It has been an unbelievable journey in so many ways; both sad and heroic; both tragic and resilient.
It has been a year when the strength of those who live in the South Delta area showed a strength that was unbreakable, even in the face of what some called a “disaster in slow motion.”
It is true that Mother Nature and water are undefeated, but if ever there was a group of people who gave her a good fight, it was last year and it was our friends, our neighbors, our family in the South Delta who put up that fight.
In the months-long flood, we not only saw a community fight, we saw a community rally. And we have seen a community recover.
Our team at the United Way heard hundreds of heartbreaking stories and took every step possible to alleviate the heartache. And in that process, new relationships were formed that allowed for more people to not only be helped, but gave more people the chance to help.
Through events and generous donations, $115,143.87 was raised and distributed to residents who suffered damage.
And that distribution of funds has remained amazingly transparent and well-managed by United Way staff, Board of Directors and the Long-Term Recovery Committee that was thankfully formed in 2011.
Their mission is to fill in the gaps when state and federal disaster aid falls short.
Their work has been an unprecedented and historic journey and must be applauded.
The Spirit of Vicksburg Award has been given for many reasons, but at its core, it is to be given to someone, some group, some business who has risen from challenges, overcome and achieved something great.
We cannot think of anyone better to be this year’s recipients than those who have aided in the relief of this year’s Forgotten Flood. Their work will not be forgotten.
The 2019 flood will never be forgotten, but there is an ever-increasing fear that 2020 will see a similar disaster.
If that be the case, I am comforted in knowing this community is both experienced and prepared to face the challenge, and we have first responders and community organizations — like the United Way — ready to respond.