CREECH: --So, very fortunately, Hands On Nashville has an MOU with Metro, that whenever there’s a disaster, that they will be in charge of deploying and organizing and mobilizing volunteers for immediate relief. And so, the Hands on Nashville staff, which are two individuals, got there on Sunday, and they literally were there for almost 24 hours a day, every day, for about the next 14 days, sleeping in cots, I mean, it was, it was pretty incredible.
So what, what they--and I worked a little bit with them; I was more in charge of the volunteers in all the disaster information centers--but what Hands On Nashville did was immediately identify the locations that needed immediate relief and went ahead--because they had this MOU, they had already planned about what partners they would need and where they’d get supplies--and they just really went ahead and mobilized it immediately for those needs. And they have a great social networking capability, of being able to send out messages right away, so when they needed 100 people to go sandbag out at Metro Center, they could send out and deploy a text message, and a Facebook message, and before you knew it, within an hour, they had 100 people out there doing sandbags. So, that was an essential piece, to have that immediate communication, and to have people responding. And there, just like me, I guess, people all over, were wondering, “what can I do?” So people who were not in peril were wanting to help. They saw the images on TV, they heard it on the radio, and they were like, “what can we do?” And because Hands on Nashville does have a great name awareness in this community, a lot of them did go there. We were trying to get TVs to tell everybody, “if you want to help, go to Hands on Nashville.” So, it was just a matter of them [going] ahead and putting their plans into action. And today, now, almost, I guess, 9 months later after the flood, we’ve got 20,000 plus volunteers that have given time.
BLACKMAN: Wow. That number is amazing. You mentioned your role with the disaster information centers and getting volunteers, staff, or that, and people on the ground, and the highest impacted neighborhoods.
BLACKMAN: Talk to us a little bit about your role with that, and how did all of that unfold, and how did you get the volunteers all...and how did you know what neighborhoods needed, um—
BLACKMAN: --were hit, you know, early on?
CREECH: Right. So-- By late Sunday night and Monday morning, we had the Planning Department do some really quick maps of what, what the inundation was, so you could literally see the map and show the waterways that had flooded and the impact in the neighborhoods, so therefore, we were able to identify the specific areas that we knew needed immediate help. So, by Monday afternoon, we had determined that we wanted to go into these neighborhoods, and because Metro owns Community Centers, it made the most sense for us just to utilize the Community Centers and turn them into disaster information centers. Um, and so what, we then defined what that meant: so, what’s going to be housed here? Well, we knew that they were going to need supplies, they were going to need food and water, they were probably going to begin to need cleaning supplies and all that goes in with that. Potentially, down the road, they’ll need clothes and shoes and bedding and diapers and everything like that. Um, we needed some Health Department people on site to give tetanus shots and just there for assistance with health needs, as well as mental health needs--we had mental health advisors. And we also had lawyers that were on site, too, that had to deal with anything from flood insurance to applying for the FEMA. So-- We had to have all that, and of course we had to have intake, and we had to have people unload supplies and manage supplies, all that. So, what I did, was worked with Hands On Nashville identifying some of their project leaders that they had had, knew that were experienced in doing leadership, and they were the key elements in getting those community centers staffed, and then, along with that, we helped community members that were in those communities that were [affected] that were not personally affected but could help with the community centers. And then we really did get some just general volunteers. Now, for instance, Coleman: we had a lot of people from Antioch where English was their second language, so we needed to have a translator or individuals embedded in that, in that culture that could relate and communicate with that demographic. Same with Bordeaux: we needed people there who understood their ailments, their situations, who could really empathize with them. So, that was really key, too, was making sure that it wasn’t just Joe Smith going into a community that everybody speaks Turkish--I mean, it’s just not going to work. So, um, by Monday night, we had had formed what we were going to do, and by Tuesday morning, we piloted in two areas--I believe one in Bellevue and one in Coleman--and then by Wednesday, we had all five open. And those five stayed open for three weeks. And that was until we were able to get some of the neighborhoods to then take over these centers, which, the actual transition went pretty well. And the need transitioned too. So, the need of food and water transitioned more into cleaning supplies and bedding and clothes and things like that, and we had the Neighborhood Resource Center that was able to kind of help organize that in the transition.