Polk FEMA center to close Friday

Posted at 5:21 PM, Oct 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 17:21:13-04

FEMA assistance is shutting its doors in Polk County.

Friday is the final day for anyone in central Florida to get face-to-face help with disaster relief.

But, it’s not the last resort either.

ABC Action News spoke with FEMA employees to find out what to do after the doors close.

“Oh my goodness it was really full,” Jean Podruchny says the days have gotten slower and slower in Bartow. 

The FEMA assistance area has been a permanent fixture in Polk County at the Stuart Center for 45 days.

“This room was filled completely,” Podruchny said the room was packed just days after Hurricane Irma ravaged the area.

Podruchny, from North Carolina, has worked for FEMA for 17 years. In that time, she’s helped victims from 45 different hurricanes. She says that estimates about 3-4 hurricanes per month throughout her years with FEMA.

“This is probably the biggest one since Katrina I’ve worked,” Podruchny said.

Podruchny and other workers from the Bartow sight have opened up the doors for 45 days in a row, with little time off.

“I’ve been off one day, I guess I’ve been off two days I take it back,” she said.

But, all for a good cause. Podruchny admits they keep Kleenex on hand for victims who need to cry. She says many do.

The last call for victims in Polk County - has proved not to be a rush.

ABC Action News visited the site Thursday when victims would occasionally come in.

“Right now I have a tarp over my roof and hopefully will stop leaking,”  James Chavis said, after just speaking with FEMA about getting help for the damage to his own home.

“We got a roofer out there and it’s $11,000 to put a roof on the house,” Chavis said that’s only the cost for the outside of his home. The inside also needs thousands of dollars in repairs.

Chavis and his mother, who had a tree fall on top of her home, wanted to get things sorted out with a face-to-face interaction with FEMA.

That’s why they decided to come before the site shuts down on Friday, after 8 p.m.

FEMA has helped more than 2,600 people at the Bartow location alone, while online FEMA has helped more than 100,000 residents with aid in Polk County.

For Podruchny, the damage control is far from over, she and her co-workers will have to stick around for another few weeks as the disaster relief continues throughout the state.

“So much need here in Florida that we are probably going to another area,” Prodruchny said.

If you are in need of FEMA assistance, please visit this link: