Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hurricane Irene relief for upstate NY

My home area in NY was devastated by Hurricane Irene. I grew up in a tiny mountain town in the Catskills, the kind of town where there’s only one road up the mountain and no stop lights (or as I like to say, don’t blink while you’re driving through or you’ll miss it). It covers 88 square miles of hilly, mountainous farm land and encompasses three small hamlets (Roxbury, Denver/Vega and Grand Gorge). My parents were lucky, they live on a hill and were spared any damage and for that I am incredibly grateful. All of my family are also safe (including my cousins in Vermont). Main street in my town however was covered in water. The town directly to the north of mine (Prattsville) was basically washed off the map and the town directly to the south (Margaretville) is in ruins. These are the towns which you might have seen on the national news. This is where I grew up. All the pictures and videos of the devastation are familiar sights which my brain has trouble processing. It's like seeing my childhood destroyed. Hay bales should not be floating down main streets. Houses should not be jammed under bridges.

People have lost everything, their homes as well as their livelihoods. They’ve been left with just the clothes on their back and a hope that their friends, neighbors and people they’ve never met will help them get back on their feet. I know that we’re all financially strained right now; the economy isn’t the greatest and the price of everything has gone up (not to mention this isn’t even in Connecticut), but I’m hoping you’ll open your hearts and help me to help the people in need back home. I’m collecting anything and everything to bring home to help in the relief efforts. And I do mean anything. Have extra toothbrushes from the dentist in the closet at home? I’ll take them. Have an extra bar of soap? Time to clean out your closet? Gather what you’re ready to part with and I’ll take it.

Items needed include, well, everything really, but specifically:
- Clothes - all ages (infant through adult), all sizes (gently used or new), all seasons
- Shoes - all ages, all sizes (gently used or new)
- Non-perishable food items (including formula and baby food and canned goods)
- Toiletries (soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, tooth brushes, toothpaste)
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Diapers and baby wipes
- Cat/Dog food
- Cleaning supplies (paper towels, toilet paper, bleach, laundry detergent, etc.)
- Bedding, towels, blankets
- Kitchen items (can openers particularly, but anything is appreciated)
- Gift cards to Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes or Price Chopper (there are no Targets, Stop & Shops, Whole Foods or Trader Joes) or Visa gift cards

Monetary donations can also be made to the following organizations. No amount is too small. Every single dollar helps, even if a dollar is all you can afford to give.

MARK Project
Box 516, Arkville, NY 12406.

Relief Fund c/o NBT
PO Box 380
Grand Gorge NY 12434.
Please write the name of the town in the memo line if you want funds to go to that particular town. Towns hardest hit include (but are not limited to) Prattsville, Margaretville, Fleischmanns, and Windham.

Interfaith Counsel c/o NBT
PO Box 140
Margaretville, NY 12455.

I will be collecting items for as long as people want to give and making sure they get to the areas which need them. The need is both immediate and long term. My home is in Connecticut now, but my heart is in the Catskills. Let me know if you're local you'd like to contribute and I'll be happy to come to you to pick stuff up.

Please feel free to pass this message on to anyone else you think might be willing to help out. And thank you in advance for anything you can do to help.

Below is Main Street (State Rt. 30), Roxbury, NY – my hometown. The little sliver of green lawn on the right is the lawn of my K-12 school where my father taught for 30 years. This is the middle of town.

This is Freshtown, the grocery store in Margaretville NY. It is the grocery store closest to my parent’s house. The CVS has since collapsed.

Part of State Rt. 30 in Blenheim, NY. Blenheim also lost their historic covered bridge. Built in 1855 it was the longest single span covered bridge in the US and withstood the flood of 1996, thought then to be a 100 year flood.

This is the Rt. 23 Bridge in Prattsville, NY. It was completely undermined and is also the bridge I take to get to my parents’ house. Or it was the bridge I take. Just out of the frame to the center left is the site of what used to be O’Hara’s gas station. Any trace of the gas station is completely gone. It looks like an empty lot.