PORTAGE, Ind. - According to the Rev. Steve Conger of Ridge United Methodist Church in Munster, more than 50 church and civic leaders of Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties met Oct. 24 in Portage to form a three-county Long-Term Recovery Committee in response to the mid-September flooding.

The United Ways of Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties, in partnership with the State's Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (INVOAD), convened the meeting to initiate the long-term recovery efforts needed in the three northwest counties.

Lou Martinez, president of Lake Area United Way, explained the role that United Ways play in disasters - including convening relief efforts. Among discussion about government support for recovery, leaders said human service providers, churches, family and friends need to help affected families follow up with FEMA, as it is sometimes confusing and overwhelming. Local United Ways will serve as fiscal agent, ensuring accountability of funds.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief provided training in October to volunteers in these counties to assist homeowners in assessment of damages in order to apply for FEMA funds.

In round one of Long-Term Recovery, up to $100,000 will be available to help with immediate needs and planning to support subsequent needs. More rounds of recovery will come next year with a goal to maximize all available resources. The large long-term recovery committee is comprised of representatives from partners in each of the three counties.

The next meeting of the Long Term Recovery Committee is scheduled to be held on Nov. 17, at 8:30 a.m. at the Duneland Falls Banquet Center, 110 N. Max Mochal Hwy (Route 149) in Portage. For more information, visit www.ridgeumc.org.