From volunteering to making tax-free donations, there are many ways to help people in areas who lost homes and personal possessions in this week’s devastating floods caused from Hurricane Irene.
Interested in volunteering? Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched “Labor for your neighbor,” an effort this Labor Day weekend to help clean-up public and private property in the Schoharie Valley, the Catskills and the North Country, where storm damage was extensive.
As part of this effort, volunteers will be shuttled into villages of hard-hit areas on Sunday and Monday. “Through ‘Labor for your Neighbor,’ we want to stimulate even more neighbor-to-neighbor help on this long holiday weekend. We’ve given it a name, but there is no copyright on the kindness of friends and neighbors,” Cuomo said.
Home Depot, WalMart and other companies and suppliers will supply cleaning pails, mops, shovels, rakes cleaning supplies, food, water and other equipment to volunteers. The National Guard and State Office of Emergency Management will supervise the effort. To volunteer or contribute, go www.governor.ny.gov/laborforyourneighbor.
United Way has established a dedicated fund to take donations for charities and voluntary agencies assisting with recovery efforts in storm-damaged communities. One hundred percent of donations will go relief efforts.
United Way will work with other statewide charitable partners, such as Catholic Charities, United Jewish Appeal, Red Cross, the Food Bank Association, the Community Action Association and others, in the Hurricane Irene Storm Recovery Fund.
Susan K. Hager, president and CEO of United Way of New York State, said the storm hit just as families with school-aged children are preparing for the start of a new school year. She said people can contribute goods rather than funds by contacting charitable organizations in their areas for more information. To donate, visit www.governor.ny.gov/laborforyourneighbor.
Food bank donations
Financial donations are needed to assist the Regional Food Bank with the cost of shipping and handling food collected to aid flood victims. Donations can be made by visiting the food bank’s website at www.regionalfoodbank.net, clicking the “Donate Now” button, and selecting “Hurricane Relief” in the program description box; by sending a check referencing Hurricane Relief to the Regional Food Bank, 965 Albany-Shaker Road, Latham, NY 12110; or by texting RFB to 20222 to make an immediate $5 donation. Donations of food can be dropped off at the Regional Food Bank or any Sunmark Federal Credit Union branch.
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Albany will sponsor a food drive to aid victims of Hurricane Irene. Church officials are asking parishioners and others for 10 pounds of canned goods, dry food products and household goods each Sunday during the food drive. The collected food and dry goods will be delivered to church food pantries in Schoharie, Greene, Albany and Schenectady counties, as well as two churches in Bennington and Brattleboro. The items will delivered by Oct. 1.
Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard is asking parishes in the diocese to provide assistance to people affected by Hurricane Irene. He asked that a special collection be taken at Mass to “meet the emergency needs of our neighbors.”
Checks to support the relief effort can be sent to Catholic Charities, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY 12203. Donations also may be made on-line at the Catholic Charities web site http://www.ccrcda.org.
The Salvation Army is accepting donations for relief efforts at: www.SalvationArmyUSA.org, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or by texting the word “STORM” to 80888 to make a $10 donation through a mobile phone. For more information, go to http://blog.salvationarmyusa.org/, www.facebook.com/salvationarmyusa or www.twitter.com/salvationarmyus.
The Salvation Army is operating six mobile feeding canteens in flood-ravaged areas, including Schenectady and Schoharie counties. It is continuing to provide free meals to people at the Montgomery County shelter in Amsterdam and the Schenectady High School shelter in Schenectady. Through donations from WalMart, it has sent two semi-truckloads of drinking water to Essex and Schenectady counties, where floodwaters and power outages have contaminated local supplies. It also operates a warehouse in the Schenectady area to accept, manage and distribute donations.
Helping historic site
The Montgomery County Historical Society is registering volunteers to help clean up the Old Fort Johnson Historic Site, which was inundated by flood waters Monday. Volunteers will work in two shifts today : 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 1-5 p.m. The site has no electricity, no water and is full of mud.
Volunteers need to bring a flat shovel and mop, as well as waterproof boots, gloves, protective clothing and water in plastic jugs. Volunteers may also bring sandwiches for the workers, bottled water, beverages, chips, fruit and cookies or other snacks.
The society is also in need of a volunteer to record and document all the historic items that will have to be thrown away. It also is seeking Lysol spray, rubber gloves, trash bags, masks, paper towels and gasoline.
The society is also seeking donations. Send a check made out to “MCHS” (Montgomery County Historical Society) and put “flood relief” on the memo line, to: Montgomery County Historical Society PO Box 196, Fort Johnson NY 12070.
Helping Schoharie County
* The City Mission of Schenectady, 425 Hamilton St., is collecting items for shelters in Schoharie County. Items include pet food and supplies, perishable food, such as fruit and milk, and laundry detergent and dish soap. When dropping off donations, label items that are specifically for flood victims. Call 346-2275 for more information.
* Schoharie County Community Action Program is accepting housewears, food, clothing and other items to assist flood victims in the area. The donations have to be new. They may be dropped off at Head Start on Lark Street. SCCAP also has set up a separate account for monetary donations. Any items going to SCCAP can be dropped off next to Dollar General in the old movie/video rental store.
* New clothing for flood victims can be dropped off at Movie Gallery, 813 East Main St, Cobleskill. Used clothing can be dropped off at Stella Motors, Unit 52, 142 MacArthur Ave., Cobleskill. Movie Gallery is also accepting toy donations.
* New York FarmNet is collecting donations to assist farmers hard-hit in the flood areas, including Schoharie County. Send donations to NY Farm Net, 415 Warren Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-7801. To learn more about New York FarmNet, visit their website at www.nyfarmnet.org.
* Schoharie Central School is accepting donations of school supplies.
* The Esperance Elks Lodge at 111 Main Street in Esperance is working with the Red Cross to take donations of clothes, bath essentials, cleaning supplies and school supplies. For directions, call the lodge at 875-6200.
Help for pets
The Animal Protective Foundation in Glenville is accepting donations to assist owners of pets displaced by the flood in Schoharie County. The foundation is seeking dry and canned dog and cat food, cat litter and disposable cat litter pans.
Donations can be dropped off at 53 Maple Ave. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 7:30 p.m.
“We cannot take in animals, but we are compiling a list of foster homes to handle requests from people who are asking us for help,” said Marguerite Pearson, APF director of communications. “We haven’t come up with any displaced animals, other than a couple of animals. Fortunately, that does not seem to be a big problem.”
Helping Schenectady County
* Duanesburg Central School is collecting donations and WalMart gift cards to be used to help Duanesburg and Middleburgh students affected by the flood. The items will be used to purchase back-to-school clothing for students and other items. The school is also seeking school supply donations, such as lunch boxes and backpacks. Donations can be delivered to any of the school buildings. Checks should be made out to the DCS PTSO with “Flood Victims” written on the memo line. All monetary donations can be mailed or brought to any of the school buildings. The school is also looking for information on any Duanesburg students and their families who need help.
* Schalmont Central School District is accepting donations to help local families, staff members and businesses. Donations will be accepted at Jefferson Elementary today only from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Schalmont families are encouraged to come to the school and pick up items from 9 a.m. to noon. Beginning Tuesday, the collection site will move to Woestina Elementary School, and supplies will be available to Schalmont families on weekdays from noon to 4 p.m.
* The Federal Emergency Management Agency will open a Disaster Recovery Center today at Rotterdam Square Mall, 98 West Campbell Road. The center will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week to assist individuals, households and businesses that suffered damage from Hurricane Irene and the subsequent flooding.
The centers will be staffed with disaster-recovery specialists who can provide information and answer questions about storm-related assistance.
People can register for assistance as well by calling the FEMA Hotline at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For those with speech or hearing disabilities, use the TTY number, 800-462-7585. Applicants can also register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or with any PDA device at m.fema.gov.
Information needed when registering with FEMA includes the address of the damaged property, names of those living in the household, a general description of the damage, the Social Security Account number of any family member living in the home, the extent of insurance coverage and certain other information needed to expedite the process.
Also on hand at the Disaster Recovery Center will be representatives from the Small Business Administration who can explain the low-interest loan packages available to individuals, nonprofits and businesses of any size. These loans are for the repair or replacement of real estate and/or personal property damaged by the storm and related flooding, officials said.
People who register with FEMA will be sent a loan application from the SBA. No one is obligated to take out a loan, according to the SBA. Applicants have six months after approval to decide whether to accept the loan.
FEMA’s temporary housing assistance and grants for public transportation, medical and dental, and funeral and burial expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. But applicants who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, vehicle repair or replacement and moving and storage expenses.
* The United Way 2-1-1 Northeast Region has expanded referral services to help victims of Hurricane Irene and the flooding aftermath. By calling the center, people can locate services in 12 counties dealing with food, shelter, clothing, child care, crisis counseling, substance abuse issues, health resources, employment, financial and legal issues, physical and mental health needs, senior care, volunteer opportunities and more.
In the first days after the storm, the call center received an average of 100 calls per day or 10 times the usual number. The call center typically receives about 1,000 calls per month.
United Way 2-1-1 Northeast Region allows for the quick dissemination of crisis preparedness information, especially during times of natural disaster, and can enhance public safety and crisis recovery efforts. In times of disaster 2-1-1 works closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help people access government information. The call center operates Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* BlueShield of Northeastern New York is helping subscribers evacuated and displaced by Hurricane Irene with obtaining prescription medications. “This is particularly urgent regarding mail order, since some of our members may no longer have a valid address,” said Brian O’Grady, vice president. “Members will need to fill chronic medications at a local pharmacy during this time of disruption even if they have the mail order mandate in their policy. We will ensure that all such instances are covered.”
BlueShield will be working with members’ pharmacies and BlueShield’s pharmacy benefits manager, Medco. Subscribers with questions should contact BlueShield using the customer service number located on their membership card.