Fundraising effort will help flood victims get back home
MIDDLEBURGH Amy Wetsel recalls filling out forms last year, hoping to find some grant funding that might help her family rebuild their Middleburgh home, which took on 11 feet of floodwater from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
She waited a few months and called a caseworker, only to learn they’d lost her paperwork.
She and her husband, Bill, and their two sons, Zachary and Austin, have been living in a home they rented in Rotterdam for the past 18 months, and it wasn’t until recently that the family decided they’d be coming back home.
Plans to return all started when they contacted Schoharie Area Long Term Inc., the disaster-recovery organization that’s been drawing volunteers from throughout the country and conducting an aggressive campaign to raise money for the work.
The Wetsel family gathered with volunteers and representatives from SALT on Thursday to highlight the organization’s role in the difficult recovery process that’s stretched out for a year and a half since the disaster.
“It’s been a long road,” Amy Wetsel said Thursday as she stood in the skeleton of her house on Middlefort Road.
Studs and beams, the roof and thick, slate floor tiles are all that remain of the home at this point.
But continued efforts from SALT volunteers are bringing the family new hope that they’ll once again enjoy views of the mountain on the other side of the Schoharie Creek and the bald eagles that frequent the skies above.
“It’s been a long road,” Wetsel said.
She thinks about all the family photographs claimed by flooding, as well as everything else they owned on the first floor of the home. And she’s troubled by the fact that her two teenage sons had to move out of their school district, and likely face another move once their home gets finished.
“It’s hard with two kids in high school. Our kids were born here,” she said.
But those dismal thoughts are tempered by memories of all the neighbors in Rotterdam and her co-workers at Topps Diner at the Rotterdam Five Corners, who made sure the family had Christmas and other nice things. The memory of a friend opening up a car trunk to reveal a Christmas tree for the family still brings tears to her eyes.
After the state of limbo that’s lasted for 18 months, Bill Wetsel said he’s glad he’ll be heading back home in the near future.
“I’m a country boy. Living in Rotterdam is a little culture shock for me,” the automotive technician said with a smile. “This was the home I bought, this is the home I’m going to die in.”
Middleburgh town Supervisor James Buzon said the Wetsels weren’t alone in their plight.
“Many people had completely given up hope. SALT is hope,” he said.
Efforts to get the Wetsel family’s home put back together rely on donations, and SALT Director Sarah Goodrich announced Thursday the end of a successful campaign sparked by Cobleskill-based Fenimore Asset Management.
The money management firm offered to match donations up to $250,000. SALT recently reached that goal, meaning $250,000 sent in by the community will turn into a half-million dollars with Fenimore Asset Management’s generosity.
Fenimore Asset Management Vice President Anne B. Putnam, whose parents’ home in Schoharie was inundated by flooding, passed a big check over to SALT at Thursday’s event and offered gratitude to those in the public who helped make the donation happen.
Goodrich pledged the money will be put to good use, and said it will amount to much more than $500,000. SALT estimates each dollar it receives is worth $4 to $6 because the organization is getting a discount on building supplies and skilled labor, and uses volunteer labor from religious and civic organizations.
Though it has made strides, the organization is still reaching toward its initial fundraising goal of $3 million.
Goodrich stressed that it’s not too late for anybody affected by the flood to contact SALT for help.