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Irene in AuSable Forks: Part III

November 28, 2011
We had all been informed FEMA and all agencies regarding our dilemma have been set up at the Community Center in the gym and will be available Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. When I arrived I was told FEMA is the first stop and then you will be directed where to go for your specific needs.

The FEMA representative Mary Ann asked from my case number I had been assigned during my phone interview and then accessed the information. She stated my case was being reviewed and any repairs or losses we suffered were to be brought to them as we received our bills and they would be sent to headquarters for review.

The process was underway and I felt better as I am sure the others waiting their turn would be also. Next I was directed to Small Business Administration who explained in order to have FEMA continue to review our case we needed to fill our paperwork to apply for a loan in the event we needed funds to complete our repairs as a result of all the damage.

We would be offered a long term, low-interest loan if we were approved. Both Linda’s manning the table were very knowledgeable and assisted with all the paperwork and explained taking the loan was our choice but it was available when approved if needed. 

Next there was a table with much information on mold cleanup with a very informative Lady from the Hazard Mitigation ready to answer all questions. Housing Assistance information was available to those in need. Lots of information and a very knowledgeable representative was there. The Red Cross was on hand for any questions and directed everyone to the room set up with cleaning supplies for those in need. The Salvation Army had reps there including Diane who was very happy to issue a voucher to those who had lost food and a voucher to those who had lost clothing. This was a huge help to those who had lost so much.

There was also a table set up for grief counseling for those in need of support. DMV was available to assist those who required assistance in replacing documents lost in the flood such as drivers license, vehicle registration, passport, etc., Dept. of Labor, assisting those in need of answers pertaining to unemployment, and last but certainly not least our hometown girl Stephanie Snow was aboard for Office for the Aging to assist those in need with programs through their agency. Steph spent many hours assisting and explaining what was available and the new guidelines that had been endorsed by the government due to this disaster.

A special program was administered by NYSERDA to assist in covering cost of replacement of household appliances, hot water heaters and furnaces. Steph patiently explained everything and assisted with the paperwork and assured everyone they would be contacted when their paperwork was processed. She went way above the call of duty and everyone was very relieved when they left that table knowing there was this type of assistance.

The gym was very organized with all these agencies and every rep was so kind and understanding.  

A room was set up with every cleaning supply you can imagine for anyone in need. Besides cleaning products and mops, brooms, paper towels, etc. There were personal hygiene items available also. Volunteers kept everything very organized and assisted with bagging chosen items for those stopping by.  

Next the meals were being served for breakfast, lunch and dinner for anyone who had damage and all volunteers assisting with the cleanup. The meals served were fit for a King or Queen. Delicious full course meals with all the trimmings, dessert and drinks with take out also available. What an awesome crew with too many to name for fear of forgetting someone. There was food being brought to the Community Center from near and far. Businesses and individuals were daily visitors bringing so many items to help feed those trying to rebuild their lives and the many volunteers helping. The Fire Department had tables set up for those wishing to eat there and many residents were happy to visit with those who were coping with their losses.

This continued until the agencies had completed their jobs and moved on. There are not enough words to thank those dedicated volunteers who spent day in and day out over there, cooking, serving, cleaning and assisting in any way they could.

We will all remember how much these acts of kindness helped us through those most difficult times.

Next, Christine Darrah decided she wanted to assist the community so she set up a committee and began asking for donations of clothing, household item, furniture, etc. and used the Girl Scout Room at the community center where she and her committee members Teesha Coolidge, Michael Rafferty, and Maddie Hutchins, all AuSable Valley Central School students organized, and made available to anyone in need so many items. The group worked every spare minute to keep the operation in full force. These students showed so much kindness, and compassion to those in need they will always be fondly remembered for all of their thoughtfulness.  

Next Labor Day arrived and we were all informed by calls from our Supervisor and his staff that there was a program through the governor’s office where individuals were signing up to come to town and assist in any way they could. I was fortunate enough to have five volunteers who helped move furniture and sort through water damaged items and carried everything to the curb for pickup and were so kind and considerate willing to do any job that needed to be done.

What a kind gesture to have these buses of volunteers give up their holiday to assist all of us in the North Country. Fire Departments came from near and far to offer assistance in so many ways including pumping basements.

The National Guard arrived and were always checking our homes and making sure we were all safe. There are so many businesses and individuals that helped in so many ways. ANCO, worked so hard assisting everyone with their heating needs. Jon Gordon visited his customers home assuring them he would assist them with getting rid of the fuel oil smell all of us had from the oil barrel in the basement. Jeff Ashley and his crew who assisted those in need of professional mold cleanup, and all the contractors who were available to those in need. The Hometown Deli and M&M Diner who alternately delivered delicious meals each day to all employees of the agencies set up in the Community Center.

Special thanks to my brother Jody who was here from the start assessing our damages, getting the wet floors up and replaced as soon as humanly possible along with his partner Walt and the Upstate Builders crew, my son and his girlfriend for their help then and now and my entire family who came to our assistance in so many ways. We are so fortunate to have you all as members of our family.

Thanks to our many wonderful friends who have from the start and continue to give us so much support in so many ways. We are so lucky to have you all in our life. 

Everyone is still trying to get back to normal and many are still unable to return to their homes and some have chosen not to return. We all now fear what will happen next with the river and Mother Nature.

Buyout forms have been signed for those choosing to do so, and some choosing out of fear but not wanting to give up their wonderful home. Time will tell if that becomes a reality.

In closing I can only once again say we are so very fortunate to have our leader in the Town of Jay Randy Douglas who continues to assist all of us in so many ways, his staff who are so very caring, our Fire Department and Auxiliary who are always there in our time of need, our wonderful town board members who were there for all of us at this most difficult time, our ambulance service who stood by always willing to help anytime they were needed, the many, caring volunteers who dedicated so much time to assist all of us in so many ways thanks does not seem enough but you will all be remembered by all of us forever.

We pray this will never happen again. If I missed acknowledging anyone I apologize as I tried my best to remember everyone. Best wishes to everyone who had losses and continue to get their homes back. You will all continue to be in my prayers.

Irene will be a name none of us will forget.

Deanna Santor lives in AuSable Forks and writes the column “Around AuSable” for

the Lake Placid News


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