Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor for Your Neighbor

Being in Albany is a little strange right now. Anyone who stays close to the city and its environs could be forgiven for thinking that nothing's out of the ordinary. The bundles of tree limbs that appear on the curbs on trash day make it plain that a storm recently passed through, but that's par for the course for upstate New York in August.

Less than an hour away in any direction, however, life is anything but normal. Irene wreaked havoc in and around the Schoharie Valley, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, and in Vermont. Eleven New Yorkers -- one of them the wife of a recently retired colleague -- and Vermonters died, hundreds of people -- among them a colleague's son and daughter-in-law -- have lost their homes, tens of thousands of others are cleaning up flooded homes and businesses, and many others are largely cut off from the outside world as a result of washed-out bridges and roads. Farmers in eastern New York and Vermont have suffered devastating losses of crops and livestock.

It's increasingly apparent that history is one of the casualties of Irene: historic covered bridges in nearby Schoharie County and in Vermont were swept away by flood waters, the Revolutionary War-era Guy Park Manor in Amsterdam, New York may have to be demolished, and several of my colleagues have helped local governments salvage water-damaged records. All of them have come back to the office visibly shaken by what they've seen.

I realize that Irene's impact wasn't limited to New York and Vermont -- people in twelve states are dead as a result of this storm -- and that several other states are also dealing with severe flooding. However, I also know that a disproportionate number of this blog's tens of regular readers live in the Albany area, so I'm focusing on local matters in this post.

If you want to help your flood-affected neighbors, you have several options:
  • Governor Cuomo is asking New Yorkers to take part in a “Labor for your Neighbor” volunteer effort on Labor Day weekend to assist in local clean-up efforts in the Schoharie Valley, Catskill and North Country Regions. Volunteers will devote a few hours on Sunday or Monday in the affected regions helping people in flood-stricken areas clear their homes of the mud and debris Irene left behind. The New York National Guard and the New York State Office of Emergency Management will coordinate volunteer efforts and transport volunteers. If you are interested in taking part, sign up here. (N.B.: Advance registration is mandatory -- you can't simply show up and expect to be put to work!)
  • If other commitments or health issues prevent you from taking part in Labor for Your Neighbor, you can donate to the United Way of New York via the Labor for Your Neighbor Web page. All contributions will be funneled to reputable charitable organizations serving the affected areas.
  • If you're looking for other ways to help in New York, the Albany Times-Union has posted a list of organizations seeking volunteer assistance (advance registration required!) or monetary donations. N.B.: the list includes a historic site and a public library.
  • If you want to help our neighbors in Vermont get back on their feet, the Vermont indie newsweekly Seven Days has posted a list of ways you can do so.
Please, please do what you can.

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