With new leader, Highland Lakes Crisis Network focuses on helping flood victims

STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS

Tammy Manning was named executive director of the Highland Lakes Crisis Network in December following the organization’s formation shortly after the October 2018 flood. Courtesy photo

Tammy Manning was named executive director of the Highland Lakes Crisis Network in December following the organization’s formation shortly after the October 2018 flood. Courtesy photo

The formation of the Highland Lakes Crisis Network was underway just before the Oct. 16, 2018, flood hit the area.

After the flood, the organization had to quickly get up to speed, which it did by hiring Tammy Manning as its executive director in December.

As the calendar flipped to 2019, Manning said the 501(c)3 organization is focusing on the long-term recovery of the area.

“People ask, ‘When do you think you’ll get to me?’” Manning said. “And I tell them I don’t know yet. But I do know every disaster at this level takes about two years to get it all completed.”

Manning has an impressive background that makes her suited for the job.

The Kingsland resident is a real estate agent and staff member at Rockpile Church in Marble Falls. She went to school in Llano and has a daughter in school there now. After a military career, she returned to the area and worked at LaSalle Southwest Corrections when the Burnet County Jail opened in Burnet.

To say she knows the people and area like the back of her hand is an understatement. Manning said seeing the flood’s destruction broke her heart, so she immediately began contributing as a coordinator of the Volunteer Resource Center in Kingsland.

“All I could think about was how could I help these people; what can I do for them?” Manning said. “I don’t need to be just sitting down.”

Now that she’s executive director, her energy will put into leading the Highland Lakes Crisis Network as the organization is tasked with helping rebuild the lives of those affected by the flood.

The amount of money needed to rebuild underinsured or uninsured homes in the area is estimated at $3.9 million, according to data from the American Red Cross.

“There are a lot of challenges. But I don’t look at them as challenges but as an adventure,” Manning said. “As a community, one thing about Burnet and Llano county residents is we love our neighbor. We’ll come together to get this done.”

The first goal Manning has set is to have three houses — one in Marble Falls, one Kingsland, and one in Llano — identified as Priority 1 by Spring Break.

The Highland Lakes Crisis Network evaluates homes damaged by the flood and an assessor gives the homes a priority based on a formula, such as whether the home was a primary residence and if it had insurance.

While homeowners remain affected by the flood, many in the area have moved on as the waters have receded and the initial shock has worn off.

“The focus is on the (RM 2900) bridge going out, not the thousands of houses that were actually damaged,” Manning said.

So the Highland Lakes Crisis Network is working to create different committees, fundraise, and add volunteers to accomplish its ultimate goal of rebuilding houses.

The network operates 100 percent on donations. As a nonprofit, all donations to the organization are tax-deductible. Donations can be made online at highlandlakescrisisnetwork.com/donation.

Once funding for a house is secured, volunteers and a construction coordinator are assigned to the house. City, county, and Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines will be followed, even if it means building a house up 6 feet to comply with a new floodplain.

Volunteers are needed to help with all sorts of jobs, Manning said. Skilled volunteers who are licensed plumbers, electricians, and HVAC professionals are being sought. People without construction experience can be taught skills or help clean out job sites. Other administrative volunteers are needed for office jobs.

The organization also takes care of people who come to the area to help in recovery. The network has a need to help the helpers, if you will.

“The Highland Lakes is full of camps. We need camps to tell us, ‘We have these dates if volunteers need to be housed,’” Manning said.

Groups of 20 or more have reached out from places such as Indiana and Oklahoma looking for a place to stay should they arrive as volunteers during Spring Break.

More needs are updated on the Highland Lakes Crisis Network website’s “Needs” page at highlandlakescrisisnetwork.com/needs.

Anyone interested in helping, volunteering, or donating can visit the Contact page at highlandlakescrisisnetwork.com, email highlandlakescrisisnetwork@gmail.com, or call the organization at (325) 423-3662.

jared@thepicayune.com

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