CCS praised for Oso relief work

  • Written by John Wolcott
  • Published in Local

ARLINGTON - Catholic Community Services is getting high praise for the way its case managers are helping survivors of the March 22 Oso mudslide put their lives back together.

“I’ve been very inspired by their workers over the past five months as they helped survivors so compassionately,” said Rev. Michael Deluca, pastor of Darrington’s First Baptist Church, who knew nothing about CCS when he joined the community’s long-term disaster recovery group. “My general impression is that they are very kind and inspire confidence in people,” he said. “I hear that from others, too.”

CCS has been working in the community since the disaster killed 43 people and left many others homeless, said Father Tim Sauer, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Arlington and St. John Vianney Mission in Darrington.

“Personally, I felt tremendous support from CCS people on the ground here,” said Father Sauer, whose Arlington parish became a focal point for the recovery effort. The agency “brought a lot of stability to the situation,” he said. “They’ve been one of the longest-involved organizations and continue to do great work here.”

CCS provided counselors in Darrington schools, assigned disaster relief managers to the area and continues working with other agencies. Case managers interview those affected by the disaster and find the help they need through a variety of groups. CCS also is helping distribute the millions of recovery dollars donated to CCS, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, area churches and other organizations.

“With so much money donated to help survivors, our staff assures donors it’s being well-used,” said Rita Jo Donovan, coordinated entry supervisor at the CCS Snohomish County Family Center in Everett.

CCS is also part of the 30-member long-term recovery group that meets regularly at a restaurant near Oso to consider requests for help from surviving families. Besides Father Sauer and other local pastors, the group includes representatives of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Darrington Resource Center, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Oso Fire Department, Habitat for Humanity, Snohomish County Emergency Services and the Tzu Chi Buddhist community in Seattle.

Donovan said CCS disaster team managers are well-versed in the resources available in Snohomish County and are “experienced in helping clients solve their needs.”

Although Darrington residents are very independent and resist outside help, Rev. Deluca said, “CCS people visited homes, checked on needs and convinced residents they could help them.”

For instance, a woman who lost her home and was sleeping on her mother’s couch told a CCS case worker she was fine. “But they managed to gain her confidence and got her back on her feet again,” he said. “Some people were crying and lashing out, but CCS was still able to help them.”