JAMAICA — Residents are gathering for a number of reasons this Sunday.
"I'm personally calling it a celebration of community. It's the fifth anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene but it's a celebration of the community that came together to help one another," said Norma Drosky, Jamaica Community Church's pastor. "It's going to be a potluck dinner and the church is providing hamburgers, hotdogs and condiments. And people are asked to bring a dish to share."
The church was not underwater during Irene, Drosky said referring to the storm on Aug. 28, 2011. Food and clothing donations were brought there for flood victims.
"Heart in Jamaica" is the church's tagline after people talked about the church's response combined with its location in the center of town.
"It meant two things," said Drosky, who became pastor six months after Irene. "We helped and we continue to help our neighbors."
The dinner is at 5 p.m. at the Town Common. In case of rain, food will be served inside the church. A Merle Haggard Tribute Concert, starting at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall, will serve as a fundraiser for the Jamaica Community Arts Council.
At 4 p.m., Greg Joly, a member of the Jamaica Historical Foundation, will be sharing a presentation on flood events in town dating back to about 1788. His plan is to show that Irene was "not really a fluke."
"I went through all of the bound volumes of the Vermont Phoenix and Reformer," Joly said. "I came right up to the very present. Through that, we rediscovered a lot of floods that didn't have a historical memory in the town."
A big flood in 1869 resulted in the death of a deputy sheriff in Jamaica, according to Joly.
Topography is one of themes in his presentations. Locations where mills and factories had once been, were places Irene moved through.
"Here in West Jamaica, the riverbed came up so far," Joly said, referring to the section of town where he lives. "It just dumped so much material in the riverbed, it jumped out of the streambed and it came down an old dam site. There were several places where that was the case."
A compilation of video clips pulled from residents' own footage will be shown. Recent flood events in West Virginia and Louisiana, plus Hurricane Sandy right after Irene, will be pointed to as evidence of climate change. Some old storm-track maps also will be explained.
Joly said he and his wife decided to go "see what's going on in the valley" during Irene.
"That's when we discovered the valley was pretty wiped out. For three or four weeks, we couldn't get out without hiking out of logging trails," said Joly, who had "lived off the grid" for years and considered himself "a scout" for the emergency response group that formed in town. "They had a lot of stuff going on. If questions came up, I'd hike through the valley then hike back in."
The roughly 4-mile hike from his house ended up adding up to about 60 miles of walking throughout those weeks.
Rep. Oliver Olsen, I-Londonderry, was "very instrumental in getting a lot of help" into Jamaica, said Joly.
Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.