cover05tentLocal volunteer coalition provides vital relief, then and now

In the aftermath of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, a coalition of community and church volunteers known as Valley Churches United Missions (VCUM) led the relief effort among San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley residents.

VCUM volunteers quickly activated their disaster center and began distributing water, food, and other relief items before the Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had even arrived. Their office became a hub of information and support for community members still reeling from the sudden trauma. It also served as a conduit for the outpouring of mutual aid that flourished after the disaster.    

“The beauty is, people set aside their differences and everyone came and helped,” says VCUM Founder and Director Annette Marcum. “It proves that we are a community … us ‘mountain people,’” she adds with a chuckle.

The spirit of volunteerism occasioned by the disaster has had impressive staying power. “Out of that earthquake we still have 25 volunteers who will be celebrating 20 years of service this year,” says Marcum.

Among them is Linda Lovelace, the current operations director of VCUM, who began volunteering shortly after the earthquake wreaked havoc in her Boulder Creek home. After containing those damages, Lovelace headed to VCUM’s disaster center to join the relief volunteers. “I had all this nervous energy, so I just came down and did whatever anybody needed me to do,” she remembers. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Take note of the funds VCUM collected and distributed:
Cash Donations: $229,2445
In Kind Donations (food, water, gear, personal items, etc): $351,059
Food Vouchers: $14,970
Food Purchases: $1,234
Home Repairs: $116,740
Medical: $452
Vehicle Repairs and Gas Vouchers: $4,647
Mortgage and Relocation: $78,166
Individual Grants: $4,150
Heat: $3,122
Burials: $1,508
Appliances and Furniture: $5,855
Total: $581,902

In sum, VCUM brought in more than one half million dollars in direct aid to the area’s earthquake victims. They served 982 families, a total of 3042 people, through their efforts.

In addition to disaster relief, VCUM operates a food pantry, provides food and transportation vouchers for low-income individuals, and offers crisis rent and mortgage assistance. They also organize school supply drives and holiday charities for families in need. The organization is 99 percent volunteer-run and operates without any government assistance.  

Marcum did not skip a beat when asked if she thinks the community would rally for another natural disaster. “Yes, and we are prepared,” she says, noting that VCUM has a list of 211 trained volunteers to call upon. “We’ve trained them to check their own property first and then come on down and get to work.

“I’d hate to see us shake, rattle, and roll again, but we know it’s going to happen,” says Marcum. “The most important thing is that we have to be prepared.”

More information about VCUM’s direct aid and humanitarian services can be found at vcum.org.

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