Nonprofits – Group’s goals: repair, prepare: SALT mobilizes volunteers to return Schoharie County from disaster

Dianna Waldren gets a hug from her neighbor Jodi Barnes and her 5-year-old daughter Nicole Barnes in front of what is left to Waldren Farms in Middleburgh Sept. 3, 2011
Dianna Waldren gets a hug from her neighbor Jodi Barnes and her 5-year-old daughter Nicole Barnes in front of what is left to Waldren Farms in Middleburgh Sept. 3, 2011

It’s been a decade since the devastating rains and floods brought on by Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc on the Schoharie Creek basin and its surrounding areas.

A little more than three months after the devastation wrought by those floods, Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) Development was incorporated on Dec. 7, 2011, with the goal “to facilitate the response and long-term recovery from that incident.”

That mission, Sarah Goodrich said, is still in its “final stages.”

“The final stage is usually the longest and hardest, and most expensive stage of any long-term disaster recovery,” said Goodrich, who serves as the secretary on SALT Development’s board of directors. “The reason for that is primarily because five, six, eight years out, you’re dealing with economic recovery, and therefore economic development. And that’s never quick and easy.”

More than 2,000 families were impacted by the destruction caused by the 2011 storms, with homes, businesses and farms left decimated and vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges badly damaged.

While an immediate response was quickly mobilized, it also became clear that a multiyear recovery effort was needed in order to both rehabilitate the area and prepare for the eventuality of a future disaster.

That’s where SALT has come in.

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During the past decade the organization has worked with a two-pronged approach.

The first, Goodrich said, is as an official volunteer hub through the Schoharie County Office of Emergency Services.

“If the county’s office of emergency services calls on us in any major event, we would stand up as a volunteer center and help screen and place volunteers as they’re needed,” Goodrich said. “From the time of the recovery from Irene, over the course of several years, we’ve placed over 35,000 volunteers. It can be a major hub with the county.”

The second major initiative of SALT takes the longer view of finding ways to facilitate the region’s continued economic recovery.

“We work at the grassroots level,” Goodrich said, “to provide funds to small organizations, individuals and businesses to continue to upgrade their properties and help continue to move forward.”

Current projects for the organization include the SALT Community Development Fund, a series of project awards ranging from $200-$500 that have benefited both youth projects and not-for-profit organizations. Meanwhile, SALT’s Blighted Property Selection Committee solicits, reviews and selects properties to be submitted to the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank Project for potential rehabilitation, demolition, deconstruction or stabilization.

In the past, SALT’s work has included receiving a grant that helped make the Trails & Tales of Schoharie County website more accessible to people with hearing and vision impairments, and a Kits for Kids program that provided emergency preparedness education and kits to area students.

Work has ranged, Goodrich said, from development projects to helping people repair driveways that are still damaged from flooding a decade later.

“We’ve done 20-, 30-some projects over the past couple of years,” Goodrich said.

And in March 2020, when disaster of another kind stuck, SALT Development was there to pitch in again, mobilizing its considerable volunteer corps at the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic into the manufacture, collection and distribution of protective masks throughout the county.

This past spring, SALT volunteers aided the county Health Department in answering overwhelmed phone lines and assisting at county-run COVID-19 vaccination clinics.

It’s all in service, Goodrich said, of SALT Development’s continuing mission to improve the quality of life in Schoharie County that was so badly damaged a decade ago.

“We’re going to be there, in case, for the county,” Goodrich said, “to serve as that volunteer organizer and that arm for the county, and for quick stand-up things such as helping with this pandemic.”

Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) Development
Founded: 2011
Mission: Schoharie Area Long Term Development builds resilient and sustainable communities.
Area served: Schoharie County

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Categories: Life and Arts, Nonprofits 2021

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