The emergency may be long past, but the recovery continues.
“Three Spirits Tell Stories of Shining Moments,” a fundraiser for the grass-roots, all-volunteer group Schoharie Recovery.org will be held Sunday at the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. Storytellers Kent Busman, Joe Doolittle and Harland Ratmeyer will share the spotlight, and proceeds from the event will go to help victims of the 2011 flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
“When we set up our group, we embraced a goal of no net loss in population or business, and we’re using one year as our reference point,” said John Poorman, chairman of the board of Schoharie Recovery and a resident of the village.
“Looking at similar events in other parts of the country, we realized it was a very ambitious goal. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we feel like we’re on target to have the majority of our recovery work completed by that first year, and if we do, that will be quite an accomplishment.”
‘Three Spirits Tell Stories of Shining Moments’
WHAT: A storytelling benefit to help Schoharie Recovery
WHERE: Glen Sanders Mansion, 1 Glen Ave., Scotia
WHEN: 5 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $50, $31
MORE INFO: 384-1700, www.schoharierecovery.org
It was Sunday, Aug. 28, when the waters of the Schoharie Creek wreaked havoc on the surrounding communities, and the very next day, Schoharie Recovery was formed as a result of some quick thinking by area residents, including Schoharie First Reformed minister Sherry Meyer-Veen.
“That Monday, some folks got together, and it was really spearheaded by Sherry Meyer-Veen,” said Poorman. “We formed a volunteer program, we formalized it by incorporating as Schoharie Recovery, and then we went to work. We were an independent, volunteer-based group, and if we had any administrative costs it was usually paid for by members of our board.”
That was nearly 19 weeks ago, and while the Red Cross and other major disaster-relief groups are now gone, volunteers from Scohoharie Recovery continue to work toward the goal of getting Schoharie back on its feet.
“If you look at how the system worked, except for a few glitches, the emergency response to the flooding worked pretty well, overall. The sirens went off, the sheriff deputies got people out of danger, and the Red Cross, the state and everybody else was doing their job. They’re all gone now because the emergency phase is over with, but we’re still here working,” Poorman said.
Rebuilding Schoharie has fallen largely on the shoulders of the residents, according to Poorman, who is director of the Capital District Transportation Committee.
“This was our first experience with a disaster this bad, and while [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the Red Cross did their jobs, a lot of people are still quite frustrated,” he said.
Relying on volunteers
“The Red Cross is there for the immediate disaster, and what’s been available through FEMA and other state groups has been great, but if often doesn’t cover the cost of the damage. We have about 200 homes in our village, and if you average out the costs the typical damage is $100,000 to $150,000 per home. That’s why we realized that we were going to have to rely on volunteers to a great degree. Any additional cash that comes in, we make sure it goes directly to pay the costs for any material that isn’t paid for by insurance. Insurance and what FEMA distributes to people only cover so much of the total.”
Through the end of 2011, Schoharie Recovery had contributed more than 30,000 hours of volunteer time according to Poorman’s estimation. As for cold hard cash, the group has handed out more than 70 checks of $1,000 to various residents who applied to the group for assistance.
“We thought we might be slowing down a bit during the winter season, but we’re still working, and we’re still getting volunteers donating their time,” he said. “We also plan to distribute more to the recipients that have signed up with our program, and we’re still encouraging first-time applicants to submit information.”
He is also happy to have benefits like Sunday’s event at the Glen Sanders Mansion.
“This fundraising is for Schoharie Recovery, but it’s not our effort,” he said. “It’s being put together by friends and neighbors in the region, and that’s one of the wonderful things about being involved in something like that. The residents in this area will never forget the generosity and the positive spirit demonstrated by the people of the Capital District and beyond. It has been incredible.”
Sunday’s benefit, which will include dinner as well as entertainment, is either $31 or $50, depending on the level of sponsorship.
Busman is director of the Fowler Camp and Conference Center for the Reformed Church in America, and Ratmeyer is director of pastoral care at Albany Medical Center and pastor at the First Reformed Church of America. Those two men and Doolittle are both members of the Story Circle at Proctors, which is co-sponsoring the benefit.