5K Run means flood aid, diversion (with photo gallery)

Katie Palmer saw some normalcy return to her weekend. After weeks of mucking out basements and first

Katie Palmer saw some normalcy return to her weekend. After weeks of mucking out basements and first floors in her hometown of Schoharie, she spent her Saturday morning collecting donations at Cobleskill’s annual 5K race.

She didn’t need boots or gloves, only a table, chair and some good will.

“People need some kind of normalcy in their life,” Palmer said. “And they thought about canceling the race when the floods first happened. But they decided they were just going to go ahead with it, and I’m so happy they did.”

Fenimore’s 18th annual FAM 5K “Fund” Run/Walk saw the most participants ever this year. And whether that was because the community needed a good distraction or outsiders wanted to contribute to a good cause in a beleaguered region, organizers were pleased either way.

Palmer was at a booth for the Schoharie County Community Action Program from Cobleskill’s fairgrounds, which were under water several weeks ago. Though proceeds from the race went to Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care, one of five rotating local charities for the annual event, participants were encouraged to contribute to local storm relief as well.

The money is desperately needed in Schoharie County, where devastation from Hurricane Irene left residents without homes, businesses, county offices and many of their personal belongings.

Cash helps

“There’s so many families that have been wiped out completely, so that what we’re doing is great, but it’s just a little tiny bit,” said Palmer. “I mean, I think you can get a check for $500, which is great. You can pay your heat bill or gas or something.”

People have also donated gift cards from Walmart, Target, Stewart’s and other shops to the program, which reviews applications from families in need and then sends them checks.

“I think it’s helping them with their day-to-day life at this point to keep doing what they need to do to get back to where they are,” Palmer said. “I mean, some people just don’t even have money to put gas in their car. People are living in campers and are coming in wanting blankets and jackets, so if we can give them a check for $500, it’s something.”

How to help

There are many ways to help the people, schools and organizations hurt by the floods. Here are some links and ideas:

Race Director Peter Sweetser had to condense two months of preparation into two weeks, as FEMA workers occupied the fairgrounds up until two weeks ago, he said.

The soaked grounds sustained a lot of damage, causing race regulars to approach Sweetser worried the event might not go on this year.

“I had more people this year than ever, probably since 9/11, come up to me and say, ‘You guys are going to have the race, aren’t you? Because we’re really looking forward to a little distraction from the daily grind,’” recalled Sweetser. “So it was an opportunity to really enjoy themselves.”

good draw

About 850 to 900 people register for the 5K every year, he said, though fewer actually turn out to race. The increase in participants this years shows the support people have for the devastated community, he said.

“I think locally people look forward to our race,” Sweetser said. “They have it marked on their calendars before we even send out notices. They look for an opportunity for the community to come together in an event they’re familiar with and that they enjoy.”

Saturday’s race started on South Grand Street, with racers trekking approximately three miles through town past SUNY Cobleskill, whose residence halls sustained flood damage following Tropical Storm Lee.

On the overcast day, racers were all smiles as they finished near the fairgrounds, mingling near a picnic area with family and friends to hear how they placed, maybe win some prizes in a raffle and, of course, eat some chicken.

A line for Brooks Bar-B-Q Chicken extended long after the race was over, offering participants some much-appreciated protein.

The chicken is Jason Gaunt’s favorite part of the annual Cobleskill race, which he said keeps participants coming back every year. He arrives from Boston each year in a group of about 20. The race course was a little less scenic this year for him, though.

“It was surprising,” he said. “I can tell how much a lot of this was under water. It’s pretty amazing how much they were able to get things back together and get this thing going.”

About 60 percent of registrations at the event were from outside of Schoharie County, said Sweetser.

Community members have welcomed volunteers from outside the county and state for all their help cleaning up in the last month. It hasn’t been an easy task, said Palmer, who lost both her home and business in the town of Schoharie.

“We’ve gotten checks from people who don’t even live here — Massachusetts, New Jersey — I mean maybe they have family here and are here for the race, but we’ve gotten help from quite a few outside families.”

As residents begin putting their condemned homes on the market for far less than they paid, the community is doing its best to stay optimistic, Palmer said.

“I think the race today was a really good distraction for a lot of people,” she said. “I know it was for me. I’d be in a basement mucking mud right now if I was home. So this was actually some kind of normalcy.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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