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Tornado Response

  • Blog Post by: Neeraj Mehta
  • May 29, 2011 - 7:35 AM

 

 

This week has been a tough one in North Minneapolis.

A week later, I’m still mad because I can’t believe a tornado stormed through my neighborhood, further exacerbating the struggles of so many in my community. I’m also inspired as I’ve watched my community come together to respond in meaningful and effective ways every single day this week.

Then I wake up this morning and read an article on www.mpr.org by Leslie Frost, former executive director of Families Moving Forward, a shelter in North Minneapolis. Here’s what she says that makes me so angry:

“In other neighborhoods, community leaders would already have active, open lines of communication among themselves and would swing into action right now to get things moving and to get attention focused on both the immediate and long-term needs of the neighborhood. In north Minneapolis, in my experience, those lines are neither active nor open, and the community leaders are more likely to fight each other for position and resources than join together in a coordinated plan.”

I understand that she is speaking from her own experience, but nothing could be further from the truth. I watched and participated this week in a tremendous show of partnership, coordination and communication. I couldn’t have been more proud of the organizations, leaders and residents who rallied together to quickly address so many of the issues after the tornado.

What started out Monday morning as an effort to mobilize volunteers to help with clean up, quickly developed into an amazing convergence of Northside leadership, community based organizations, faith communities and others. This grass-roots collaboration has come together quickly, effectively responding to the multi-faceted needs in the aftermath of the tornado. To be in the room with this partnership of people and organizations this week was inspirational.

By the end of the week more than thirty organizations were collaborating together focused on meeting the immediate needs of our community.

• 3000 volunteers had been mobilized to help with debris clean up.

• Hundreds more volunteers were mobilized in each of the three impacted zones, knocking on every single door ensuring individuals and families were okay.

• A rapid response center was formed for people knocking on doors to communicate the needs they were encountering. From there resources like food, water and clothing were deployed to the door of families in real time.

• A strategy was developed that would provide immediate support to uninsured homeowners and prevent further displacement. It also included a plan to engage local and minority contractors, effectively keeping dollars flowing inside our community.

I’m not trying to attack Leslie Frost for her belief about my community’s inability to come together in a coordinated fashion. She is not the only one who believes this about north Minneapolis. Instead, I want to use this opportunity to lift up what actually did happen this week in north Minneapolis.

We came together. We worked together. We helped each other.

And to know north Minneapolis well, is to not be surprised by this at all.

If you want to learn more about the efforts this week, and the continued coordination that will be happening, or ways you can join in, please contact me and I’ll help you get connected to the many organizations coming together to respond to the needs after the tornado.

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