The Fulton Montgomery Long Term Recovery Committee swung into action Thursday morning, pulling together roughly 50 community leaders and local volunteers to chart Fort Plain’s path to healing.
The chairman of the committee, Red Cross response manager Michael Raphael, led the meeting from a seat in Fort Plain’s United Methodist Church.
“We want to centralize,” he said. “We want to organize so we can do this in the most efficient possible way.”
Since Otsquago Creek flood waters receded, communication was been an issue. Raphael said organizations and volunteers are willing to help, but in all the scramble, many might not know where the help should go.
Gathered in one room, village residents along with representatives from Catholic Charities, The United Way, Montgomery County Social Services, and other area nonprofits started to figure things out.
“My congregation has a few spare washers and dryers,” said the Rev. Dennis Murphy of Our Lady of Hope, raising his voice to reach the densely packed fellowship hall. “What should we do with them?”
Raphael said the committee secured Canajoharie’s 35,000-square-foot Beech-Nut warehouse for storage of donated supplies. He also said area charities will be compiling the needs of various residents into one database, connecting them with suppliers and streamlining the whole system.
The committee originally formed to help Montgomery County residents recover from tropical storms Irene and Lee, but arrived late on the scene. More than a year after those floods, the group was just voting in their bylaws. They missed the wave of volunteer support and funding back in 2011, but didn’t make the same mistake this time around.
“We’re still waiting to hear about federal funding,” Raphael said, “but I think we need to get ahead of the wagon on this one.”
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., are both lobbying for federal disaster relief, Gillibrand announcing a personal appeal to Department of Homeland Security in favor of a declaration Thursday.
And Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised village officials the state would step up to help, even if federal money doesn’t come in.
But Raphael said money should be raised independently, just in case.
Several subcommittees were formed at the meeting, one exclusively for fundraising.
“Catholic Charities is going to be our bank right now,” he said.
After the meeting, people milled around, comparing flood stories and signing on to specialized groups.
Andrew McPherson, the committee’s resident construction worker, leaned over a piece of printer paper taking down people’s names.
Besides the fundraising group, three other subcommittees were formed Thursday: one to assess needs, one to coordinate volunteers, and a group of skilled builders, which McPherson is heading up.
All the groups are meeting next week to plot their various courses of action. McPherson talked with Eric Walters and Kern Bridgewater to set things up. Both are donating their time, despite personal loss.
“My whole house was condemned yesterday,” Walters said of his Reid Street home.
Bridgewater, too, lives on Reid Street and had to gut his whole first floor. Besides helping out the rest of the village, he’s looking at a major rebuild in his own home.
The next full committee meeting will be held at 10 a.m. July 25 in the United Methodist Church.