GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Recent severe storms and weather-related events have kept local disaster response organizations busy.

World Renew is a non-profit based in Byron Center that provides services including disaster relief. Its specialty is long-term disaster response and helping restore damaged homes.

“We connect with a local organization, we bring volunteers, and expertise, and tools, and tool trailers,” said Bob Laarman, director of domestic disaster response with World Renew.

Over the last year or so, Laarman has noticed an increase in situations where World Renew teams have mobilized to a disaster site. In some cases, it’s one major weather event after the next.

“There certainly has been an uptick, both in the number of disasters and the size of disasters,” Laarman said. “We had a clean-up crew clean up after [Hurricane] Ian and then when the next hurricane came, they turned their efforts to boarding up windows for the next one that came through.”

Laarman said the frequency of the severe storms or natural disasters can be discouraging at times but it’s not stopping the organization’s nearly 1,500 volunteers across the U.S. from answering the call to help.

“What keeps us going is to focus on what we can do. We can’t do it all and we can’t be everywhere, but we can be part of some amazing recoveries in the places where we can go,” Laarman said.

To prepare for future disaster response efforts, World Renew’s volunteer leadership collaborates with other organizations long before a storm occurs, so they can have the biggest impact with their available resources.

“They’re talking to local authorities and getting us good information early on,” Laarman said.

Often times the damage following a major weather event causes people to lose hope. Laarman said they work to bring it back.

“They get their hope restored and a launch pad with renewed hope so they continue on with their lives,” Laarman said.

Laarman said the groups at a disaster site usually work in teams of between 12 and 20 people and are switched out as necessary.