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Irene: Schoharie County flood victims’ needs still overwhelming

Irene: Schoharie County flood victims’ needs still overwhelming

People working to rebuild the Schoharie Valley are getting a more detailed understanding of the need

People working to rebuild the Schoharie Valley are getting a more detailed understanding of the needs that remain more than seven months after tropical storms Irene and Lee left devastation in their wakes.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s Disaster Response Services sent representatives for a two-week Green Shirt campaign last month to get an assessment of unmet needs for Schoharie Area Long Term Recovery (SALT). These volunteers established drop-in stations throughout the valley and went door-to-door, drawing input from 147 households.

Precise data is still being compiled, but SALT Director Sarah Goodrich said preliminary estimates show flood-affected residents who participated in the surveys need between $12 million and $18 million to rebuild their homes.

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People interested in volunteering can learn more about the efforts of Schoharie Area Long Term Recovery at www.saltrecovery.org.

Despite the scope, Goodrich said that’s not an insurmountable challenge because SALT’s effort is drawing thousands of hours of volunteer labor.

In one recent project, Goodrich said the group spent only $500 on materials to rebuild a house, but labor valued at $50,000 was done for free by volunteers.

“By leveraging volunteer labor, donations both financial and items like construction materials and washing machines and furniture … that figure will be made doable,” Goodrich said.

Though it’s important to put a figure on the level of need, SALT member and Schoharie Reformed Church Pastor Sherri Meyer-Veen said the Green Shirt campaign doesn’t reveal the full extent of damage. It doesn’t include government buildings or businesses, and the 147 households represent only people able to have a survey completed during last month’s campaign.

There’s a list of people unable to participate last month whose needs still have to be assessed, Meyer-Veen said.

“We continue to raise awareness that things are still a mess down here in terms of a lot to be done, but they’re not a mess in terms of the effort to help coordinate,” Meyer-Veen said.

Though they face a daunting task, there is a glint of hope in the form of a calendar that hangs on the wall at SALT’s headquarters. The calendar depicts time periods in which volunteer groups — many from other parts of the country — are slated to arrive and tackle rebuilding for a weekend, a few days or even a solid week.

That doesn’t diminish the need for local help, though, especially from those with skills in the home construction industry.

SALT plans to continue working until the effects of tropical storms Irene and Lee are addressed throughout the Schoharie Valley basin.

“That covers a lot of territory and a lot of homes and a lot of debris and a lot of areas that need help. The need continues to be strong,” Goodrich said.

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