Even as the BGStrong Disaster Recovery Center at the former Sears location in Greenwood Mall sat closed Thursday amid the winter storm, officials are seeking more volunteers when the site reopens.
In particular, those with experience in social services and dealing with people who recently experienced serious trauma are needed most at this time.
City of Bowling Green Public Information Officer Debi Highland West said the center desperately needs volunteers in this area because of high level of need.
“We need social workers, counselors and other such individuals who are willing to help out their fellow citizens during this time of extreme need,” she said. “We did see a significant drop-off in volunteers when people went back to work and school after the holidays.”
West said the city is looking for people who can work at the center for the “long haul” (two to three months) because of the changing needs of those most affected by the tornadoes.
To help better coordinate efforts, she said the city recently hired Marieca Brown as the center’s volunteer coordinator.
Brown has lived in Bowling Green for 35 years and is a retired Bowling Green Police Department officer who has experience working in volunteer and disaster relief capacities.
“Things were so busy out here and they needed some help,” Brown said. “I’m here full-time, temporarily for at least the next three months. It has been amazing to see how quickly things have came together. Living Hope Baptist Church did a great job getting things together at first. It’s mind-blowing how we have gotten to this stage.”
She said while social service volunteers are needed, officials at the center are also asking for large equipment because many in the community have reported large trees still down throughout the area.
Volunteers who can assist with intake, stocking supplies and data entry/filing are also being asked to help.
“We are looking at having this center open possibly for three to six months because we will see people repeatedly come back,” Brown said. “Many are displaced and are living in a hotel. As they transition back, they will need to restock their houses.”
She said social service volunteers need to be prepared and equipped to hearing “heartbreaking stories” daily.
“There are people with PTSD from this who just need to talk,” Brown said. “Even some of the volunteers here have been traumatized. The people of Bowling Green have been so gracious. We will take volunteers as long as there are needs that need to be met.”
Anyone wanting to volunteer at the center is asked to park in the small parking lot at the rear of the old Sears site before walking in.
– More information on how to help can be found at www.wearebgstrong.com/volunteers/.
– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.