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A Federal First - Volunteer Initiative
Lake County Groundhog Heroes

RELEASE DATE: February 9, 2007

Lake County, FL (2/9/2007) – Groundhog Heroes, an innovative disaster recovery effort, was launched February 9 in Leesburg, Florida by the Lake County Emergency Operations (EOC) Center.  The program, the first of its kind, is comprised of non-paid staff (volunteers) who will provide direct support to affected residents. The Groundhog Heroes will assist with small home repairs and debris clean-up on private property to expedite recovery and re-establish a sense of normalcy within Lake County.

Upcoming community events will significantly impact the availability of accommodations in the Lake County area, making it necessary to explore alternative options to house non-paid staff.  Under the direction of the Lake County EOC, non-paid staff will primarily focus on the Lady Lake and Lake Mack communities, as well as other areas affected by the Groundhog Day Tornadoes.

The base camp will occupy an already established youth and retreat center, donated in-kind by the Church of God in Leesburg, Florida.   The camp has the capacity to house and feed up to 150 people at one time, for volunteers expected to participate in the ongoing recovery effort.  Workload direction will be provided by the Lake County EOC, while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will provide background screenings and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office will offer security. Non-paid staff will also receive an initial health screening from the Lake County Health Department.  The camp will provide residents with laundry and catering services, as well as and utilities.  

When asked for his comments on the Groundhog Heroes initiative, Lake County Emergency Manager Jerry Smith responded: “We can’t be grateful enough that they would give their time to our citizens.  They are first responders, as are our fire, medical and law enforcement personnel, and we must care for them equally.”

Qualified volunteers who wish to participate should contact the Lake County EOC, where they will be affiliated with a recognized non-government organization, before being housed in the base camp. Volunteers will also be screened for specific skill-sets.

The program is being managed under the Volunteer & Donations Division of the Lake County Emergency Operations Center.  Those interested in participating in Groundhog Heroes are directed to contact 352-343-9732.   

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has confirmed that this program will be eligible for federal reimbursement.

The camp is located at 33926 County Road 473, Leesburg, Florida.

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Lake County media contact:
Communications Department
EOC Public Information Officer
Office: 352-343-9603; Cell: 352-455-0445
klafollette@lakecountyfl.gov

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