New Port Richey resident Sherry Stamback Turansky has kept abreast of Tropical Storm Debby’s impact on West Pasco and recovery efforts in the area.
She started a Facebook group June 26 to keep folks informed of news about Debby and the local response. She thinks she should have started it sooner.
Debby is now long gone, but Stamback Turansky's efforts to help the community are still going strong.
She is now using Newportrichey.recovers.org, an online tool for community-based disaster recovery, to connect volunteers, donors and people looking for aid in Debby’s wake with information and resources.
On the New Port Richey Recovers site, folks can volunteer to help those impacted by Debby, make a donation to an aid organization or let others know about what they need to recover from Debby, which resulted in flooding in West Pasco. They can do this by selecting "I was Affected," "I Want to Give," and "I Want to Volunteer" on the site's front page. News and information also is posted on the front page, as well as requests for help.
New Port Richey Recovers is one of several community disaster recovery sites created by Recovers.org, an online platform that helps people in communities impacted by disasters connect with information and resources. Recovers.org is a start-up project headed up by sisters Caitria and Morgan O’Neill in Massachusetts and software engineer Alvin Liang.
Stamback Turansky was contacted about Recovers after someone heard of her Debby did Florida (but we’ll recover) Facebook page. She was offered the New Port Richey Recovers site as a gift and the opportunity to be its administrator, she said.
“I see the impact of Recovers.org as one more layer to help this area (finally) build a sense of neighborliness,” Stamback Turansky said. “I see folks reaching out and connecting, creating a sense of community, which can radiate and grow.”
Right now, Stamback Turansky is reaching out to volunteers and learning how to manage the website. The site currently funnels donations to Florida’s West Coast Region of the American Red Cross. Stamback Turansky is actively seeking a nonprofit organization that would be interested in involvement with her Recovers so an emergency relief fund can be set up.
"As soon as I am successful with finding an inclusive group to hold our umbrella, the money will stay local," she said.
Stamback Turansky is getting help from the best source she could ask for. She asks Morgan O’Neill, one of the Recovers leads, for advice daily.
Morgan O’Neill is pursuing a doctorate in hurricane physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She knows what it's like to try to keep a community informed in the wake of disaster.
In June, 2011, before Recovers.org existed, a tornado ripped through Caitria and Morgan ’s hometown of Monson, Mass., taking out houses, trees and public infrastructure.
In its wake, “There was this huge informational problem," Morgan said.
The O’Neills used Facebook to help coordinate response efforts, giving regular updates on need. They also created an online searchable document with volunteer information.
“It was messy, but it worked,” Morgan said.
Recovers.org, which was started this year and serves several communities in the nation, is an attempt to provide one spot where people can get the information needed to recover. It is currently a business, but Morgan says the creators are seeking foundation status. Right now, it is run with the help of a few grants, including a $340,000 one won in the Knight News Challenge.
O’Neill said that the site has been offered free to communities hit by a disaster. Recovery sites are available for any community for purchase.
“We hope this tool will catch on because know from past experience that it can make a big difference,” she said
Stamback Turansky is an artist and business owner in New Port Richey. She’s also known as “Spellbinding Sherry” and runs “Spellbinding Intuitive Services.” As more people join Recovers, she plans to delegate other Recovers administration tasks to other volunteers.
She says she has non-Debby related community-building efforts in the works, too.
“I believe folks who feel invested in their community are apt to take a greater responsibility for the same,” she said. “I also believe that when folks know that they are part of such a community, they are likely to embrace a greater sense of belonging and from, the good times will be impacted, too."
Want to help? Check out Newportrichey.recovers.org for more information. Create an account to log information and communicate with others.