Teaming up to help

Delmar native travels the country in disaster relief program

— In the wake of a natural disaster, the focus is rarely on those working behind the scenes getting basic necessities to the most vulnerable.

Zhibek Tosi, a Delmar native who graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2011, said that’s how she felt until she became one of those workers.

“It made me thankful for what I had, because (Tropical Storm Irene) hit so close to home,” she said.

After graduating with a degree in global supply management, Tosi opted to join a new program within the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Corporation for National and Community Service have partnered to form the FEMA Corps, a residential service program for those 18 to 24 years old who act as part of first response teams during natural disasters.

Tosi said she was attracted to the program because of her educational background. Global supply management involves tracking inventory and the logistics of shipping goods throughout the country or world.

“Our team works to get supplies from warehouses to natural disaster areas,” said Tosi. “We get the office up and running as fast as possible, and get supplies to those who need them.”

FEMA Corps participants commit to working with the organization for 10 months, with the option to sign up for a second session. Members work in teams of eight to 10 people, and are given a $4,000 stipend, housing, meals and medical care. According to AmeriCorps, the program is expected to save taxpayers about $60 million a year.

Lizz Gatzunis, a media representative for FEMA Corps, said the program has eight different branches, each providing support to disaster areas. After applying for the program and being accepted, participants are surveyed to see which track they should be trained in. Once surveyed, those in the program are trained for up to five months before being deployed.

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