Whenever there’s a call for volunteers in her community, Federation supporter Julie Constantine-Kohlhaas is there. But after a natural disaster cost her family their home, belongings and even lifelong friends, Julie suddenly found herself on the other side of the equation.
“We’ve always been the family that just gives everything we can to help everyone we know,” she says. “To be in a situation where you have to accept help…. It’s so humbling for us.”
Julie’s story unfolded in the aftermath of floods in Colorado. But there have been dozens of communities around North America affected by natural disasters in recent years, from Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast to tornadoes in the Midwest to ravaging wildfires in the West.
In each of those emergencies, Federation has been there, raising millions of dollars and helping coordinate rescue, recovery and rebuilding.
Coming Together in the Motor City
Take, for example, Detroit. When a storm dumped historic amounts of rain on the city last August, flooding roads and houses and knocking out power for 100,000 residents, Federation was ready to act.
Using its profound knowledge of the community, Federation directed partner NECHAMA: Jewish Response to Disaster to where help was needed the most, and publicized and coordinated volunteer recruitment and logistics—even housing and feeding volunteers who came from around the U.S. and Israel.
Liraz Gibli, a 23-year-old Israeli, was in the U.S. on an exchange trip when she joined the effort. She spent days cleaning out the destroyed basements of elderly Jews’ homes. “Federation asked for volunteers,” she recalls. “I have the time, I have the strength, so why not? I love the people and the work is very satisfying.”
“We helped a woman who had tears in her eyes, saying, ‘Thank you so much to Federation, thank you for coming,’” says Amy Newman, a Federation professional. “It made me realize how much we are a convener for help in the community. We bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t find each other.”
Providing Relief Abroad
Internationally, Federation partner agency the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) provides critical humanitarian relief after natural disasters. From the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines, JDC funds and personnel support everything from food, water and medicine delivery to medical relief work and rehabilitation facilities.
In times of calm and in times of great need, Federation is there. It’s what being part of a collective—one that stretches from coast to coast, and even around the world—is all about. So when the unexpected happens, people like Julie—and their whole communities—know that help is on the way, no matter where they are.