Public outpouring still necessary for flood victims

Goods donated by individuals, churches and businesses throughout the Capital Region and from other s

A Schoharie County couple came into the Esperance Elks Lodge on Thursday, wondering what they might find there to help them get back on their feet.

“We have nothing,” the woman said, recounting the flood’s impact on the family.

Four volunteers jumped into action, asking how many children the family has.

They started stuffing plastic bags with items that were stocked and ready to go: toothpaste and toothbrushes, bottled water, garbage bags, canned spaghetti sauce and fruit, juices, plasticware and paper plates, cleaning supplies and other items.

By the numbers

Environmental impact of storms Irene and Lee in New York state:

• 54: Number of sewage treatment plants affected by the storms. Thirteen were flooded, 41 had to bypass all or a portion of treatment units. Nearly all are back on-line, but a few along the Susquehanna River are providing only partial treatment due to extensive flood damage.

• 1,550: Number of fuel and other hazardous materials spills reported to the state Department of Environmental Conservation since Aug. 28. There were 600 spills reported during the same time period last year.

• Unknown: The extent of damage to DEC-managed lands. Many of these areas are inaccessible and have not yet been fully assessed for damage. Hikers and campers should expect to find trails, bridges and culverts washed out and a great deal of downed trees and branches. An assessment continues and updates are made available on the DEC website at

• Unknown: Extent of wildlife impact. DEC is working with municipalities to repair damage to streams and rivers in a way that lessens long-term environmental harm. Wildlife impacts will be assessed once response and recovery efforts are complete.

Source: DEC assistant director of public information Emily DeSantis.

Earlier in the week, the lodge on Route 20 ran out of jelly — they still had plenty of peanut butter — so volunteers called over to the Carlisle firehouse, another depository for donated goods, and had some sent over.

Goods donated by individuals, churches and businesses throughout the Capital Region and from other states are making their way into the hands of the needy, and some said Thursday the need continues.

Carlisle Fire Chief Susan Bortell smiled proudly as she recounted the various sources of donations: Benson’s Pet Center sent food for people’s dogs and cats and hamsters; Sunrise Church sent three pallets of bleach and a bunch of energy bars; and fresh vegetables came in “from all over the place.”

And the supplies aren’t going to waste.

“It comes in and it goes out,” Bortell said.

It’s difficult to account for all the sources of the donations — there isn’t an all-inclusive list. It ranges from the corporate to the individual, from near to far.

One neighborhood woman gathered all her change, went to the store and purchased school supplies. She separated gift bags for boys or girls and labeled their contents: pencils, notebooks, crayons, etc.

“My TVs are gone,” said Bortell. People donated a few flat-screen units that found their way into the homes of survivors who can now settle down to their favorite program or watch a video.

“It’s been overwhelming,” she said.

Some folks such as Maude Kaye, 32, of Albany, don’t intend to stop helping and collecting donations until the flooded communities are put back together. She fears the region’s benevolence is fading in areas distant from the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River.

“I think the farther you go out, people think it’s over and done,” said Kaye, who grew up in Schoharie County.

She’d driven from Albany on Thursday morning to drop off donated money. She placed jars at establishments on Delaware Avenue in the city and people donated $180 in cash.

“There’s more coming in,” Kaye said.

Winding down

Though the need for canned goods and domestic supplies continues, the Elks Lodge and Carlisle Fire Department are no longer distributing clothing. The Elks Lodge called the Schenectady City Mission this week to take away hundreds of pounds of clothing, linens, shoes, towels and other items that were donated.

Longtime lodge member George Diamond Sr. said the group closed its kitchen operation Wednesday — they’ve been cooking hot meals for nearly three weeks and delivering them to people in affected sites.

They started making individual meals in the aftermath of the flood, then changed to bringing food out in a “hot box,” asking people what they wanted.

“If we saw cars and people, we would stop,” Diamond said.

The Elks Lodge will continue being a depot for donated goods until Thursday. Volunteers have been on the site from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the hours will change Monday to 2 to 8 p.m. to be available for those getting out of work, Diamond said.

After Thursday, items that aren’t sent over to the Carlisle Fire Department will probably be packed up and sent to veterans’ organizations and perhaps packaged for troops overseas, he said.

Even as the shock of the disaster starts to fade and the attention of those unaffected drifts away from flood survivors, Bortell said she intends to keep the tables stocked until everybody’s needs are met.

She said she can’t estimate how long donations will be needed — maybe a month or even more.

“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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