As locals rid Amsterdam streets of winter detritus during the citywide cleanup Saturday, a separate group of volunteers will be cleaning up a much older mess in homes across Montgomery County.
A group of about 50 volunteers from the American Red Cross and a number of local organizations will be working under the Fulton Montgomery Long Term Recovery Committee plan to clean and repair eight homes that remain badly damaged from tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011.
“We’ll be doing interior construction, demolition, plumbing, mold remediation, a little bit of everything,” said Michael Raphael, response manager for the Northeastern New York chapter of the American Red Cross and one of the key planners of the volunteer event. “We’ll even be cleaning up a private section of creek bank that’s still covered in trash washed up by the flood.”
The houses to be repaired Saturday are eight of roughly 40 Montgomery County residences that are still badly flood damaged.
Raphael said the event marks the first large-scale volunteer effort to tackle flood-damaged homes in the county. It also marks the recovery committee’s first major action since it was formed late last year.
The group is made up of a handful of local charities aiming to help victims of Irene and Lee long after funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dried up. Case workers from Catholic Charities compiled names of homeowners still living with flood damage, and representatives from the United Way, Red Cross and a number of other local organizations are trying to line up materials and volunteers to help.
Until recently though, very little was done. The group struggled over the winter to iron out its own leadership structure and find usable lumber for projects. In December, it had only about $16,000 at its disposal.
Their problem had a lot to do with timing. The group came together about a year after Irene’s floodwaters receded. By that point, most potential volunteers were thinking about other things, like sending aid to Long Island and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.
According to United Way Director Frederick Quist, who serves on the recovery committee, much of the recent activity is thanks to Raphael’s installation as chairman of the committee and the help of the Red Cross.
“He has so much energy,” he said. “We couldn’t be in better hands.”
The day of repairs is a sign of what Raphael said is a marked change in Red Cross policy.
“We used to just provide assistance right after the disaster,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to provide long-term assistance and bring the community together to help.”
Much of the materials and tools to be used Saturday were donated or lent to the cause. Catholic Charities is providing bleach for cleaning mold and volunteers from the state Youth Construction Initiative Program are bringing their own tools to cut down on costs.
However, money is always a big part of home projects and the Red Cross will be helping out with things like plumbing fittings and lumber. In fact, Raphael said the Red Cross has put aside $130,000 to be used in the state just on damage from Irene, “and they’re willing to use more if that runs out.”
Volunteers will meet behind Amsterdam City Hall at 8 a.m. They’ll be briefed on the day’s work over a provided breakfast, then break up into eight groups and ship out to the various project sites across the county. Work will continue until 5 p.m.
“We have both skilled and unskilled workers,” Raphael said. “My kids are coming, so we can definitely use anyone.”
For more information or to volunteer, contact Red Cross volunteer Pat Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spontaneous volunteers are also welcome the day of the event.