Nearly 20 families forced from their homes by last year’s flooding will be back by Christmas following post-disaster recovery efforts coordinated by a team of Green Shirts from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s Disaster Response Services.
Organized by Schoharie Area Long Term, the local post-disaster recovery agency formed following tropical storms Irene and Lee, 26 volunteers were involved in the rebuilding effort over the past five months in the Schoharie Valley. They departed this past weekend with little fanfare, but many plan to return to resume work in spring.
Green Shirt regional team leader Pat Guikema said she and others found residents in the disaster-stricken region to be “gracious and nice.”
“We’ve always felt that people in the community were very receptive to what we were doing. We’ve always been really welcomed into the community, so that makes a big difference,” she said.
Guikema said she and her husband are taking a break, but other team members are headed south to continue helping people. The organization has four work sites currently open, one in North Carolina and three in Alabama.
“There’s an opportunity for our volunteers to work all winter long,” Guikema said.
SALT’s work will continue through the winter, with the goal of getting more flooded homes to a state the Green Shirts will be able to work with, SALT Director Sarah Goodrich said. That work includes mold abatement, electrical service, heating systems and other major home infrastructure.
“They need houses to be at a certain readiness point,” she explained.
The Green Shirt volunteers typically worked in pairs under the coordination of project managers, with a support team to stay at the house they’re living in during projects to do cooking and prep for the rest of the teams. SALT is responsible for gathering the necessary supplies to do the work and housing the volunteers.
The individual teams take on two or three projects at a time, coordinating the work of volunteers such as those from the VISTA program.
Goodrich said the Green Shirt team accomplished a great deal of work during its tour in the Schoharie Valley. In some cases, they coordinated complete rebuilds, installing kitchens and porches and finishing details at 19 homes.
There are a few loose ends in some of the houses, and owners don’t want to move back in until they are complete, Goodrich said.
“The goal is to get these folks in by Christmas,” she said.
With homes in need of attention numbering in the hundreds, Goodrich said recovery will be a lengthy process.
“It takes a lot of time to do a complete rebuild, particularly when you have volunteers doing it,” she said.
“A lot of homeowners said they’re a little afraid that people will forget the area,” Goodrich said, referring to the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which caused severe damage downstate and along the Eastern Seaboard. But so far, she said, efforts to help Sandy’s victims haven’t hampered recovery efforts in the Schoharie Valley.
“Yes, there is need down there. However, the need continues here and the long-term recovery, which is the part we’re in, is actually the most expensive part of returning areas to the pre-flood stage,” she said.
Guikema said she and her husband, Doug, will be back to Schoharie in March to gear up for continued work.
People can learn more about SALT’s work at www.saltrecovery.org.