Sarah Goodrich and her husband were preparing to put their longtime home on the market when tropical storms Irene and Lee devastated Schoharie County back in 2011.
Their home, an old farmhouse on a hill, was undamaged, but the couple’s plans for the future had been irrevocably altered.
They had intended to retire and downsize, to participate in short-term volunteer projects.
Instead, they stayed put, and Sarah Goodrich immersed herself in local flood-relief efforts, first as a volunteer and later as executive director of SALT, the non-profit organization focused on recovery and economic development in Schoharie County.
“We’d always talked and dreamed of doing short-term mission work,” Goodrich told me. “Instead the mission came to us.”
On Friday, an era will come to an end as Goodrich, 70, steps down as SALT executive director, a position she’s held since 2012.
For years, Goodrich was the calm, steady public face of flood recovery in Schoharie County.
I spoke to her frequently, touching base to learn more about how the county was faring as it worked to rebound from an unusually destructive natural disaster.
She was candid about the challenges and hardships residents faced, but also upbeat and positive, confident the county would emerge stronger than ever.
When I met with her on Wednesday at Schoharie Reformed Church, where the SALT offices are based, she was wearing a green ribbon, a symbol of rebirth adopted by the community in the wake of the flooding.
“I have so many feelings,” Goodrich told me. “Those original days still feel like yesterday, because they were so busy, so active, so traumatic in some ways. But they also feel like a world away.”
Her lasting impression, Goodrich said, is of “the goodness of people and the resilience of people, how much people can reach inside themselves and find strengths they didn’t know they had and put them to good use when called upon.”
It’s an inspiring lesson, from a leader whose commitment to the people of Schoharie County has been strong and steadfast.
In recent years, SALT’s mission has evolved, from one focused strictly on rebuilding the areas of the county damaged by flooding to economic development. Goodrich has steered the organization through this process, and her stewardship leaves SALT well-positioned for the future.
“It didn’t take long to understand that this was going to be long-term,” Goodrich said. “How long-term was the question.”
Goodrich doesn’t know what she’ll do next, though she expects to volunteer for SALT.
She said that she and her husband, David Goodrich, a pharmacist who is also planning to retire, will do some of the things they put on hold when disaster struck their community.
They will sell their house and move into something more suitable for empty nesters whose daughters left home — for Watertown, N.Y., and Idaho — years ago.
“We’re planning to plan,” Goodrich said, with a laugh. “I want to travel, catch up on some reading, catch up with family.”
One possibility is buying a smaller home in Schoharie County and wintering in the South; Goodrich, a native of Georgia, moved to New York in the late 1960s, when she married her husband.
In some ways, Goodrich was an unlikely choice to manage a non-profit devoted to flood relief and recovery.
Her previous jobs included helping her husband run a pharmacy in downtown Schoharie and managing her own catering business.
She was also active in volunteer projects at Schoharie Reformed Church, where she is a longtime member, and says this experience gave her the managerial skills needed to coordinate teams of volunteers and manage other aspects of flood relief.
“I really, really feel I was led through this whole thing,” said Goodrich, who describes herself as a person of faith. “This was not my idea. It was something God wanted me to do, and he’s given me the tools to do it.”
The work of SALT will endure, and the organization appears to be in capable hands.
Georgia Van Dyke and Pat Clancy, who co-chair SALT’s board, will lead the organization, and Jerrine Corallo will continue to serve as SALT’s project director.
But I’ll miss talking to Goodrich and hearing her words of wisdom. For a county faced with a long recovery, she provided passionate and humble leadership.
Here’s to a happy retirement, and an exciting new phase of life.
Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.
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Categories: Opinion, Schenectady County