Saratoga County

AmeriCorps aids with Waterford flood cleanups

Almost a year after the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene, residents of First and Front str

Almost a year after the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene, residents of First and Front streets in Waterford still need help with their homes and yards, badly flooded last Aug. 29, when the Mohawk, Hudson, and Hoosick rivers were raging.

When a local coalition of churches and governmental organizations heard that AmeriCorps had a crew of young people available this week to help with flood damage, they welcomed the help.

Seven young adults from across the United States were busy Wednesday cleaning mud out of basements, power washing houses and landscaping yards in the village.

Taft Barnett from Atlanta is the team leader of the AmeriCorps group that works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help in disaster recovery.

“It’s a 10-month, full-time, team-based national community service program,” Barnett said. The group is staying at a Presbyterian church hall in Schoharie County and will be working in Waterford through Wednesday. They started work Tuesday.

“They did a beautiful job,” said Dick Castle of 5 Front St. He was looking at his home, which was just pressure-washed by Greg Day, an AmeriCorps worker from Chicago. The workers also landscaped his front yard.

Castle said that almost a year after 4 feet of water washed through his living room and kitchen, there are still many “little things” that need to be done to bring his home back to pre-flood condition. He signed up for the free AmeriCorps work through Grace Church, which is one of the many organizations associated with the Waterford Area Long-Term Care Coalition.

Ward Patton, a retired school superintendent who is a coalition member, said this group was created during the flooding to identify the unmet needs of people in the flood-damaged areas. Patton said John Amos, a FEMA representative, came to a coalition meeting last week and asked if it could use some help from the AmeriCorps workers. “We went around and spoke to homeowners,” Patton said.

“They work hard,” Patton said about the AmeriCorps people.

The result is two large Dumpsters on First and Front streets full of debris from cellars and yards. By the time they were done Wednesday, the workers had worked on more than a half-dozen homes.

Debra Ostrander, an AmeriCorps worker from Michigan, said she and her fellow workers were cleaning mud and damp debris out of basements, landscaping yards, and will be doing some interior renovation work later in the week.

“We are helping families out who need help,” she said.

The AmeriCorps workers are between the ages of 18 and 24 make a commitment of 10 months. They are paid a living allowance and travel costs and receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award upon successful completion of the program.

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps is modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.

Ostrander is a college graduate as is Kelly Marshall of Virginia. Jeremy LaRoche of Sparta, Wis., is a graduate of Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy.

Yaeeun Hahm of Boulder, Colo., said she graduated from Colorado College and joined AmeriCorps to take a year off before going to graduate school.

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