R3SM asks Hattiesburg, Forrest County to help cover costs

R3SM asks Hattiesburg, Forrest County to help cover costs

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Long-term disaster recovery agency R3SM is asking the City of Hattiesburg and Forrest County to help cover administrative costs.

Shelia Varnado, CEO of R3SM, spoke to Hattiesburg City Council members and Forrest County Supervisors Monday about the work the agency, volunteers and faith-based organizations have done since the January tornado. She said R3SM is a lean organization that operates with only three full-time employees - a construction manager who works with volunteer teams to make sure work is up to code, a chief operating officer who runs day-to-day business and a full-time volunteer manager who organizes those coming in to help.

"Our challenge is always the ability to fund the staff, the three people that I just described, because there are no administrative funds that are available to an organization like ours, so that's really what this comes down to - the need for us to be able to keep ourselves in business to be able do the business we do for the community," Varnado said.

Varnado is now a volunteer herself after retiring as executive director in 2014. She said there have been times employees have worked for the agency unpaid, and now hopes the governmental bodies can help fund those positions.

"We're here to request financial support to work through the cases that we have in Forrest County, City of Hattiesburg," she said. "The preponderance of our cases are in the City of Hattiesburg, and so most of the work that we will be doing will be here in the city."

Varnado said the agency is asking the county for $25,000 and the city for $50,000 to help pay administrative costs. She said money raised from WDAM 7 News' Pine Belt Strong Telethon is being used to help tornado victims directly and cannot be used for overhead costs. Council President Carter Carroll said municipal elections on Tuesday, it would likely be July 1 before a new council could commit to any substantial amount of money.