Vermont pays it forward After receiving so much help in the wake of Irene, state lends a hand to areas battered by Sandy
MONTPELIER -- After Tropical Storm Irene caused widespread flooding last year, Edward Fox recalls, the Vermont Foodbank’s sister organization in St. Louis sent Clorox.
"St. Louis sent us a lot of cleaning products, which was great. Those were absolutely perfect donations," after flooding in which much of the state needed mopping up and disinfecting, said Fox, chief of operations at the Foodbank.
On Friday, Fox was packing Green Mountain Coffee, bottled water and peanut butter into a pickup truck to leave Sunday morning for northern New Jersey, where the sort of recovery Vermont was in the midst of a year ago is under way in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
He’ll be in the storm-struck region through next Friday, he said, returning in time for his wife’s 50th birthday party the following day.
Fox said the reciprocal support organizations like his offer one another is "absolutely great."
"It’s wonderful the strength of the network that can draw resources from 200 food banks around the country if necessary," he said.
Irene brought the worst flooding to Vermont in more than 80 years, leaving six people in the state dead and destroying or damaging more than 500 miles of roads, 200 bridges and hundreds of homes and businesses. Afterward, financial contributions and volunteers poured in from around the country, helping Vermont to get back on its feet.
The response to Irene prompted Cecelia Dry, a 62-year-old retired financial aid officer at the University of Vermont, to sign up as a Red Cross volunteer. Dry, of Middlebury, couldn’t help much with Irene because she needed the Red Cross volunteer training first. But on Friday, she and 64-year-old Mary Evslin, of Stowe, were at a Red Cross shelter at the White Plains High School in suburban New York, waiting for their marching orders.
"They’re terrific, just a fabulous organization," Dry said of the Red Cross. "There are people here from all over the country."
Larry Crist, executive director of the Red Cross region that includes Vermont and 12 towns in New Hampshire, said the feeling was strong in his organization that Vermont needed to pitch in.
"A hundred Red Cross volunteers came here from out of state for Irene," he said. "This storm somehow seems to have skipped us, but it hit everybody around us. It’s really our turn to go and help them."
Vermont’s largest utility sent convoys of trucks from Rutland and Brattleboro to help power restoration efforts in Connecticut. That was after working in their home state to restore power to 48,000 customers who lost power due to the high winds that spilled into Vermont from Sandy.
Not everyone in Vermont was ready to lend a hand, though. Asah Rowles, chair of an Irene Recovery Group in the Mad River Valley, southwest of Montpelier, said there are still hundreds of Vermont residents facing a second winter without permanent housing after Irene.
"A lot of people are wanting to" help out in areas affected by Sandy, Rowles said. "But there’s still so much here that’s not done."
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