Kiel citizens and representatives of organizations and businesses are invited to an informational meeting at the Kiel Community Center’s upper level on Wednesday, June 22 at 6 p.m.

The upcoming meeting—led by City Administrator Jamie Aulik, Kiel Area School District Administrator Dr. Brad Ebert, Executive Director of United Way Manitowoc County Inc. Ashley Bender and Emergency Services Director Travis Waack—will be in regards to the COAD program that is available to Manitowoc County communities and answer questions regarding the program.

COAD—Community Organizations Active in Disasters—was formed in October 2019 and is explained on the United Way Manitowoc County Inc. website as a “partnership of local organizations” with a purpose of “bringing together organizations before, during and after a crisis to best support Manitowoc County communities with preparedness, response and recovery efforts should a disaster strike.”

Alongside the educational aspect of the meeting, there is also the goal of various volunteers—organizations, businesses, churches and individuals—established in different categories pertaining to the COAD program based on volunteers’ skills and strengths.

Tucked in the southwest corner of Manitowoc County, the city of Kiel has a history of its citizens taking care of each other. “Kiel has a great local base of support,” Aulik said in an interview. “We look out for each other and need to make sure we continue making good choices to help each other.”

Although the city of Kiel takes pride in caring for itself—alongside the mutual aid between its neighboring communities—the city can benefit from utilizing the program. Bender points out that the COAD program is for more than just larger-scale disasters, but can be utilized for smaller incidents as well such as a house fire, a flooded basement or a tree falls and causes damage during a windstorm.

Joining and utilizing the COAD program that is available to Manitowoc County as a whole, the city of Kiel will be able to better help those affected by disasters that could take place in the future with better efficiency and more effective responses and recovery efforts. Instead of the possibility of multiple attempts to help in identical areas and potentially struggling in other categories when recovering from a disaster, tasks and responsibilities will already be established and communication will have taken place. The COAD program will help unify those wanting to help, with the initial contacts secured instead of the community starting on square one with every tragedy or disaster that could hit either a singular family unit, segments of the community, or the city as a whole.

A list of COAD participants is available on United Way Manitowoc County’s website, but there is hope that the list will grow during the scheduled meeting with a range of volunteers and organizations. “You never know who can be affected,” Executive Director of United Way Manitowoc County Ashley Bender said. “One of the organizations or volunteers could be one of the affected and may be unable to help.”

The driving force behind this meeting and the potential to utilize the services COAD has to offer stems from recent moments in need. Multiple members of the Kiel community experienced unexpected and tragic events. During those moments, phone calls were made by good Samaritans who wanted to help the affected families.

The phone calls made, however, had similar questions regarding services and offerings for those who were affected. These tragic occurrences that brought out the better side of people were in need of an established, coordinated response team.

“We need a community response team ready to respond when people are in need,” said Dr. Ebert. “We have so many great resources in the community and by bringing them all together we can collectively support those that need it.”

With United Way Manitowoc County Inc. as the lead and fiscal agent of the COAD—and the organization’s high regard for transparency—the organization will make sure that donated and collected items will stay local. The organization also makes sure that what is collected—finances, cleaning supplies, clothes, etc.—goes where it needs to be and follows up to make sure agencies used resources the way they were intended.

An example of United Way’s transparency is shown on their website, where the organization presents where different needs were sent regarding their COVID-19 Basic Needs Relief Fund, which was heavily documented.

Joining and utilizing the COAD program can help Kiel’s organizations, businesses, churches, school districts, volunteers and good Samaritans continue to assist citizens in need with pride during times of disasters no matter the size.

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