HAMILTON — In the wake of natural disasters, recessions or like we're dealing with today -- a pandemic -- relief efforts can be complicated and sporadic. However, Ravalli County is starting to see the positive results from a disaster relief program it set up several years ago.
The Roaring Lion fire devastated the Ravalli County community in 2016, displacing a number of families from their homes. But the rest of Montana was there in a time of need as donations in the form of food, water, clothing and other items came pouring in.
"The out pouring of support for those affected was just amazing," said Ravalli County Organizations Active in Disaster (RCOAD) president Dallas Erickson.
However, the organization and handling of those supplies took up vital space in the Red Cross shelter.
"We hadn't seen anything like that before, even though we participated in shelters on several fires here in the valley," Erickson recalled. "We weren't very prepared for that and we weren't very prepared for the aftermath."
After that fall came the creation of a multi-agency resource center -- RCOAD which works with numerous other agencies to organize relief efforts needed by the community.
In the wake of COVID-19, the group has been ready to keep the community safe in an orderly fashion.
Beginning in March, they started meeting bi-weekly talking about a number of issues to solve like getting food to those who can't travel, supporting local animal shelters, and on top of that finding volunteers willing to do that work.
"The hours the volunteers have put in is very humbling," said Erickson. "A lot of them are elderly, and they fell in the high risk area so we couldn't use them but they were there ready to help. It really is telling of this valley, because a lot of volunteers have stepped up and there's more out there that want to do something, it's very heart warming."
Not only will these resources being used to help in the now, but in the case of a spike in coronavirus cases or another disaster down the road. If you think you're in need of these services, you can go online to ravallicountymutualaidcommunity.org or call (406) 233-9031.