As part of its response to record floods, tornadoes and storms that have plagued the U.S. heartland this spring, humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) announced it will conduct a series of July training seminars, “Recovery Tools and Training” in Alabama and Tennessee.

The training events ― with collaboration by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, the Coordinated Assistance Network, Lutheran Disaster Response, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) ― are designed for individuals, communities, groups, churches and recovery groups wanting to establish long-term recovery organizations to help the most vulnerable people impacted by the disasters.

In Alabama alone, the April 27 outbreak of 61 tornadoes that decimated communities was the worst disaster in the state’s history and according to FEMA will reportedly cost $1 billion to recover..

CWS Emergency Response Specialist Brian Crousore, who will conduct the agency’s daylong training sessions, said, “Even with maximum assistance from federal, state and local governments, from insurance and charitable donations, it will take years for the area to fully recover."

“And our six decades of experience working with the most vulnerable tells us that, after disasters of this scope, poor families and individuals are least able to repair their homes or to find a new home, without assistance that falls outside the established structures and resources.”

The five long-term recovery trainings now scheduled include:

  • July 7: Faith Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Ala.
  • July 9: First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • July 11:  First Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Ala.
  • July 13:  St. Joseph Catholic Church, Thomasville, Ala.
  • July 15:  First United Methodist Church, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Workshops, luncheon and training materials are free and open to “anyone dedicated to helping rebuild homes and lives, including faith based groups, religious leaders, community leaders, social service organizations, disaster case managers, and others concerned about recovery,” Crousore said.

The training curriculum covers structures for recovery organizations, community needs assessments, establishing and accessing assistance networks, construction volunteers and management, disaster case management, emotional and spiritual care, accessing FEMA individual assistance, and “finding the money, muscle and materials for recovery.”

Workshop participants may come from as far as a 100-mile radius, according to Crousore, who conducted trainings and community outreach earlier this month in southeastern Missouri areas affected by Mississippi River flooding when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breached a levy in May to divert floodwaters from other areas. 

“Helping people who are uninsured, under-insured and most at risk of falling through the cracks of the system requires considerable knowledge, resources, networks and definitely commitment. Recovering from a disaster requires a whole-community approach,” Crousore said.

Along with providing emergency relief supplies, CWS makes community level long-term recovery assistance a priority. In recent years, the agency has used training seminar formats to maximize sharing of its expertise, and has provided grants to startup groups.

Building grassroots recovery infrastructure to help the poorest is part emergency response and part of CWS’s global focus on advance preparedness to reduce the risks of disasters.

In a June 1 presentation at the Brookings Institution in Washington, CWS Director of Development and Humanitarian Assistance Donna Derr told attendees, “Only 14 states in the U.S. have substantive adaptation plans in place to help U.S. communities and families be more risk averse.”

Regardless of the economy, Derr said, “If we don’t pay the cost of putting into place plans [now] … we will be seeing greater and greater loss of life and infrastructure throughout the U.S., even with all the response mechanisms we’ve put into place.”

To register online for a training session, go to For more information, contact Brian Crousure at (515) 867-0612.