As Hurricane Florence, which intensified Monday to a Category 4 storm, hurls toward the Southeastern United States, many in the Golden Isles are keeping a close watch on the weather forecasts and thinking about preparations, just in case.

For a local group of community members, though, hurricane prep and response has been at the forefront of their minds for nearly a year, since Hurricane Irma blew through the area last September.

Shortly after Hurricane Irma last year, multiple Glynn County organizations gathered together last October to establish the Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD) of Coastal Georgia.

The local VOAD is made up of representatives from social service and faith-based organizations, nonprofits, businesses and governmental agencies. The group, which serves Glynn and McIntosh counties, tracks and organizes the needs of the community before and after weather disasters. They meet about once a month.

The local VOAD joins more than 100 member organizations across the nation that follow the policies provided by the National VOAD umbrella.

Tres Hamilton, CEO of Coastal Georgia Community Action, heads the local VOAD.

“The organizations involved in our VOAD of Coastal Georgia are committed to collaborating, coordinating, cooperating and communicating to benefit those still suffering from the past two incidents,” Hamilton said, in a press release.

The group held a meeting Monday, at which members discussed ongoing work to repair damages done by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma as well as efforts to keep community members informed as Florence and other storms approach.

Janelle Harvey, community impact manager for the United Way of Coastal Georgia, informed the group that World Renew, a global, Christian-based organization, has requested to send teams of volunteers to Glynn County in late fall or early winter to help community members rebuild homes damaged by prior hurricanes.

“They would have about 12 to 30 people per group that would come in and just show up at the sites where we tell them to go,” Harvey said. “The only thing that we would be required to provide would be housing and in-kind donations, so the materials.”

The World Renew team identified more than 92 cases of unmet local needs and estimated recovery costs to be almost $1.8 million.

“They did a great job for us when they came in and did the unmet needs assessment, and this is certainly a service that we need in this community,” Harvey said.

The team also made plans during the meeting to continue to encourage community members to sign up for the Need-A-Ride program, which provides transportation during storm evacuations to designated Red Cross shelters out of the area.

Pick-up sites this year will include Lanier Plaza, Mary Ross Park, Glynn Place Mall, United Pentecostal Church, Harris Teeter and Bay Harbor Church of God. People with pets are asked to use the Lanier Plaza pick-up.

The Need-A-Ride registration form is available online at glynncounty.org/forms.aspx?FID=63.

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