SBA presents its annual Phoenix Awards for disaster recovery efforts
A restaurant owner in New Jersey who rebuilt after Hurricane Irene last year, a Mississippi mayor who led recovery efforts after a tornado destroyed the entire town, an emergency manager in Texas who organized the response to the worst wildfire in the state's history, and a North Carolina volunteer who coordinated the rebuilding of a small town devastated by tornadoes have all been presented with Phoenix Awards during the US Small Business Administration's National Small Business Week 2012 celebration.
The awards were presented during a luncheon sponsored by Prudential, in Washington, D.C.
"These individuals displayed tremendous courage and resourcefulness in the midst of several devastating disasters," said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. "The Phoenix Award acknowledges their heroic efforts, and is a token of appreciation for their contributions to the economic recovery of their communities."
Barry O'Donovan of Cranford, N.J., received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery. O'Donovan was planning a celebration to mark the third anniversary of his Kilkenny House restaurant, named after his boyhood hometown in Ireland, when Hurricane Irene's floodwaters hit on August 28, 2011. The storm left 12 feet of water in the basement, which housed the restaurant's office, electrical system, food prep and refrigeration area. Losses reached nearly $300,000. In order to support the recovery of local produce vendors and the small brewery in town, he secured an SBA disaster loan and set a goal to be open for business by October 15. Only six weeks after the flood – a week before his deadline, O'Donovan and his staff of 22 reopened Kilkenny House.
Mayor Gregg Kennedy of Smithville, Miss., received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official. When they heard the tornado warning sirens around 2:30 p.m. on April 27, 2011, Kennedy and two city clerks took cover under a boardroom table at Town Hall. Ten seconds later, the building and the rest of Smithville was gone. In less than a minute, the tornado's 205 mph winds had killed 16, destroyed 153 homes, four churches, the police headquarters and 14 of the 15 businesses in the one-square-mile area of Smithville. Kennedy took quick action, working with a doctor to set up a makeshift hospital, organizing search and rescue efforts, coordinating restoration of the town's infrastructure, and running the emergency command center. Working for days without sleep, Kennedy became a symbol of optimism for Smithville residents and set the town on the road to rebirth.
Mike Fisher of Bastrop, Texas, received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Public Official. The wildfire that started Labor Day weekend in Bastrop County burned for 30 days, scorching 34,000 acres and destroying more than 1,700 homes and businesses – the worst wildfire in Texas' history. Fisher, the county's emergency management coordinator, calmly established protocols for the federal and state first responders who arrived on the scene to help. Aware that a ‘team-first’ approach was critical to the task at hand – saving property and protecting lives – Fisher took the lead managing evacuations, firefighting, debris disposal and restoration of utilities. He also provided timely updates to the public and the media. Fisher's leadership and insistence on establishing good relationships with the agencies involved in long-term recovery made it possible for Bastrop County to begin the rebuilding process.
Alfred Mignacci of Raleigh, N.C., received the Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer. The Stony Brook mobile home development was devastated by the tornadoes that hit the Raleigh area in April 2011. Of 183 homes in the community, 148 were destroyed or badly damaged. The tragedy was magnified by the deaths of four children. Mignacci, a 74-year-old retiree with a background in mechanical engineering, took the community – mostly Hispanic immigrants – under his wing. Working 60-80 hours per week for six months, often in rain or extreme heat, Mignacci repaired mobile homes, coordinated countless volunteer work crews from all over the country and managed purchasing and delivery of building materials. The language barrier made gauging the basic needs of families difficult, so Al recruited translators from local churches. Mignacci's sense of responsibility, sharp organizational skills and compassionate heart made him a central figure in Stony Brook's rebuilding process, and gave the residents an energizing dose of hope and self-respect.
Since 1998, the SBA has presented Phoenix Awards to business owners, public officials and volunteers who displayed selflessness, ingenuity and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities.
For more information about the award winners and other National Small Business Week events visit http://www.nationalsmallbusinessweek.com/
•Date: 23rd May 2012 • US •Type: Article • Topic: Disaster recovery