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The Best Gifts from Schoharie County

Showing posts with label recovery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recovery. Show all posts

Vote in Our New Poll: Have We Recovered from Irene?

Written By Editor on 12/14/14 | 12/14/14

Make sure to vote in our newest poll. Has the Valley from Blenheim on up properly recovered from Hurricane Irene?
Has the Valley Recovered from Irene? free polls

200 Emergency Ready Kits Provided for Vulnerable Populations

Written By Cicero on 11/24/14 | 11/24/14

Hope for the Home-bound, a new program formed by SALT, Office of Emergency Services, and AmeriCorps will be distributing 200 Emergency Ready Kits to vulnerable populations all across Schoharie County on November 25 at 258 Main Street, Schoharie. A press conference will be held at 11:00am to launch the distribution event.

Emergency Ready Kits are comprised mostly of common household items that are meant to sustain and comfort for three days in the event that a family is stranded at home. The kits are not just for natural disasters, they are important to have during events such as power outages, winter storms, or thunder and lightning storms.

Hope for the Home-bound could not have been accomplished without key partnerships and donations from over 30 organizations and individuals. The program’s goal is to not only help provide people with Emergency Ready Kits, but to teach them the skills necessary to help themselves as well as those who rely upon them. As stated recently by a member of the community, “I wish everyone would realize how important it is to have one of these kits.”

It costs approximately fifty dollars to assemble an Emergency Ready Kit home-bound individuals, who may suffer from a physical or medical condition, rely on public transportation, live in an isolated area or feel they would have nowhere to go should they need to evacuate, might not have the ability to assemble their own Emergency Ready Kit.

The press conference at 11:00am will provide food and refreshments volunteers and supporters throughout the day. If you are interested in helping to assemble or distribute kits, or would like more information on how to be prepared for any event, please contact Volunteer Director Jillian Kubiak at or by phone at 518-702-5017.

Food Store Returning to Middleburgh

Written By Editor on 10/7/14 | 10/7/14

It may have taken three years, but a food store is again returning to Middleburgh. Coming in the next month, the Olde Corner Store will be opening its doors at 308 Main Street. The store, currently a staple in Gallupville, had been looking to relocate in Middleburgh for over two years now.

Owner Joy Heckman is optimistic about her new venture. She said that she was compelled to come to the community due to the "the void in Middleburgh and the surrounding area that was left by Hurricane Irene." She aims to become a major partner in the community, both at her store and with the recent expansion of events in town.

"I love what I do." she said.

The Olde Corner Store has been a popular stop for the last eight years in the Town of Wright and will be expanded in Middleburgh. Joy Heckman is planning on purchasing a new open display case and has opened an online fundraising pitch to aid in the endeavor. The store will have expanded deli and bakery options from what she has now.

The site, formerly Four Star Realty, will also use a back office facing Railroad Avenue affected by Irene partially fixed by volunteers organized by the Village and SALT. The Olde Corner Store will place its bakery in that space, allowing for more food options in the front section.

"I welcome the Olde Corner Store and Joy to Middleburgh," said Mayor Matthew Avitabile, "The quality of her store and her enthusiasm will be well met in the community."

Heckman wants to offer an arrangement of grocery and health food items, saying that "I look forward to serving the residents of Middleburgh and providing quality food and health supplements in a friendly atmosphere."

Efforts by the Village of Middleburgh have so far paid off, with most of Main Street now fixed and occupied or ready to be occupied. The pharmacy has opened two doors down from the Heckman's.

Before and After: An Irene Photostudy

Written By Editor on 9/18/14 | 9/18/14

Local reader Michael Avitabile sent us these photos of scenes from Middleburgh, Schoharie, and down the Schoharie Valley of scenes of heartbreak and recovery from the flood.

The former Chamber of Commerce location on Main Street Middleburgh, now ICCI Computer Concepts

Wayman's Furniture, Middleburgh

Main Street, Middleburgh

Debris, Middleburgh

Main Street, Schoharie

Old and New Stewart's, Schoharie

River Street, Middleburgh

Opinion: SALT Forever, Sustainable

Written By Editor on 9/9/14 | 9/9/14

SALT has been among the most effective community groups since 2011's flooding. Its intrepid employees and volunteers have been incredibly effective at rebuilding homes, businesses, and lives shattered by Irene.

They need to stick around. There are still homes and businesses left to be fixed and the need for volunteers. SALT also partners with other groups to educate the public about flood and disaster response. There will be a need for general flood mitigation. Unfortunately, some day in the future the area will need a rapid reaction force ready to take on flooding.

SALT will, and should be there for these eventualities.

However, three years on after the flood, some things should transition. SALT has effectively aided over 600 properties, and has organized and distributed thousands of hours of volunteer labor and hundreds of dollars. There's a new reality as the flow of volunteers and donations slow to a trickle. It's nothing that SALT or any other local group did wrong, it's just that money and labor follow recent disasters. Schoharie Recovery co-founder Josh DeBartolo is in Colorado helping with flood recovery there-- it's just what good-hearted people do.

So with less cash and fewer hands on deck over the next years, what should SALT do? A large portion can stay the same-- keep the VISTA volunteers ready-- paid for by federal grants, keep sending out as many volunteers as possible, and keep informing the public. However, due to the fact that donations have declined and will continue the decline, moving to an all-volunteer basis (or a very low stipend system) is the only way that a group of the scale of SALT can sustain itself over the next several years. Any significant administrative costs will eventually rival the costs of materials and work done on-site. It happened to other major groups and could easily happen here.

SALT is, was, and will be an integral part of the County. It's important that it places itself in a position to do so.

Former Alley Cat Diner Changes Hands

Written By Editor on 9/4/14 | 9/4/14

The site of the former Alley Cat diner has new owners. Devastated by the flooding of 2011, the popular Alley Cat never returned and was rebuilt and reopened as the Blue Star Cafe.

Recently, the store was bought and reopened as Schoharie County's Diner. The diner is open Tuesday through Sunday and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Photo and information credit the Schoharie Promotional Association's Facebook page.

Irene Marked by Leaders in Blenheim Ceremony

Written By Editor on 9/1/14 | 9/1/14

It has been three years to the day since Hurricane Irene changed the Schoharie Valley forever. The Town of Blenheim hosted a remembrance ceremony at its future community center, as mentioned by Deputy Supervisor Renee Grabowski.

The event drew around thirty people, including volunteers, SALT members, and local officials. It began at 11am.

"I want us to be renewed.... every person has a role in this," said SALT Director Sarah Goodrich. "We continue to see SALT as an important piece of this puzzle."

The event was well attended
Congressman Chris Gibson said that he would not relent in helping the residents of the area until recovery was achieved. "I want to start with how proud I am of this community... Lesser people would have folded," he said. Gibson praised both SALT Director Goodrich and Schoharie Recovery founder Josh DeBartolo, who is currently helping flood victims in Colorado.

Assemblyman Peter Lopez became choked up when describing the devastation after the flood and thanking volunteers. "We have gone from flood victims to flood survivors to architects," he stated. He also noted that a full quarter of the calls his office receives is related to flood recovery.

Other local officials each said a few words. Schoharie Supervisor Gene Milone thanked volunteers and Congressman Gibson personally for assisting in resolving a two year old account that was hamstrung by state bureaucracy. "We cannot ask for better representatives," he said of the Assemblyman, Congressman, and State Senator Seward. Esperance Supervisor Earl VanWormer marked the incredible progress in Esperance and beyond. Middleburgh Mayor Matthew Avitabile said that efforts from every part of local society have been extraordinary.

The event also marked a shift in tone, as Goodrich noted between recovery and revitalization. She said that 85% of all houses were either fixed or would be torn down. 15% remain unoccupied and need to be fixed.

SALT Receives Large Donation from FAM

Written By Editor on 8/26/14 | 8/26/14

Fenimore Asset Management has been a great friend to flood recovery. The Cobleskill business gave $250,000 to SALT in 2012. This month the company pitched in $40,000 more for flood recovery.

Photo credit: SALT
According to SALT's press release, Director Sarah Goodrich stated, “As we at SALT turn our focus to community and economic renewal, support from successful local businesses such as FAM is vital.”

Schoharie Packed for Rock the Valley

Written By Editor on 8/25/14 | 8/25/14

Schoharie was mobbed with visitors on Saturday visiting the annual Rock the Valley concert and festivities. It was the fourth Rock the Valley since Hurricane Irene in 2014. The event was very well attended and money raised went to the Schoharie Fire Department.

The Valley Beverage Guy team won the bed races:
Photo credit the Schoharie Promotional Association and the Schoharie Fire Department.

Schoharie Introduces New Logo

Written By Editor on 8/22/14 | 8/22/14

The Village of Schoharie is looking to continue its flood recovery with a new publicity push. The community has unveiled a stylish new logo to promote its strengths. This also coincides with the Rock the Valley event tomorrow and a series of business openings in town. The logo's inclusion of water is a nod to the community's original name, Fountaintown.

Photo credit the Schoharie Promotional Association.

Fourth Annual Rock the Valley in Schoharie August 23rd

Written By Editor on 8/20/14 | 8/20/14

This Saturday will see the third iteration of the Rock the Valley concert in Schoharie. Started in late 2011 as a response to the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene, the project has brought together first responders, flood victims, volunteers, and other community members for a day of fun and remembrance.

This year's Rock the Valley will take place this Saturday, August 23rd from noon to midnight in Schoharie. The night before will have a Vegas-themed gaming night. There will be bed races at 10am and over thirty vendors. All donations go to the Schoharie Fire Department. The current roundup calls for music all day and fun for the whole family.

More information can be found on the event's Facebook page.

Construction Begins at Schoharie Senior Housing Project

Written By Editor on 8/18/14 | 8/18/14

Construction has begun at the site of the future Schoharie senior housing project. The construction, being done near the former Great American site has attracted significant attention and is part of the flood recovery program endorsed by local agencies.

 Photo credit Schoharie Promotional Association's Facebook page.

After Flood, Middleburgh Sees Swift Revival

Written By Editor on 8/11/14 | 8/11/14

Middleburgh was the second-hardest hit community by 2011's devastating flooding. Faced with much of its business sector and residential areas demolished by Hurricane Irene, recovery seemed to be over a decade in the making.

Now, just two years later Middleburgh appears to be poised for its quickest growth in decades.

The community lost six businesses and dozens of residents in the flood. There is still a waiting list to demolish flood-damaged buildings and some people still have parts of their homes yet to be fixed. However, for much of the village it would appear that the deluge never happened at all.

In the middle of 2012, various programs were put in place to assist both flood victims and build up a residential and commercial base battered by the economy and weather. $20,000 in flood recovery money was collected and sent out directly to businesses and homeowners by the Village government. The Middleburgh Area Business Association was created by Mayor Matthew Avitabile and over 40 businesses have joined to coordinate efforts for events and initiatives. Their most recent series, the Fourth Friday events, have become very popular, bringing in hundreds of visitors each month.

Fourth Friday events on Main Street. Photo credit: Sheila Donegan
Various grant programs left for dead were revived and used to fund the recovery. A Main Street Block Grant intended for a 2008 completion was found moribund and closed out in 2013. The revived program allowed over $150,000 for repairs to over a dozen businesses. Another $20,000 was used for many of the most recognizable projects of the last three years: a deer mural, a picnic pavilion, wildflowers, and other projects. Another mural was placed up in 2012 from another formerly mishandled grant fund. A New York Community Block Grant meant for a 2006 completion assisted with another $60,000 in low-interest loans for businesses-- partially used for flood damage and some used to nab new businesses such as Green Wolf Brewery and Valley Tax Accounting. Another grant intended for closure in 2003 was used to complete the Creekside Park project on Baker Avenue. Several damaged homes were taken down and turned into greenspace. Across the Schoharie Creek, a new pavilion was erected by the Knights of Columbus and Rotary Club. Trustee William Morton has been expanding his wildflower project in the area and placed a monument to Timothy Murphy. All told, almost $1 million in grants were rescued that would have instead been handed back to the state.

Much of the recovery took place after a fearful jolt. After the effort by former Mayor Gary Hayes to dissolve the Village government in early 2013, residents reacted decisively against the plan. The occurrence re-galvanized volunteer and local efforts to revive the community. The Neighbors Eating Together dinners, a cooperation between Middleburgh's four churches grew to large proportions, now gaining around 100 neighbors per week in the fall and winter to dine and converse. The Rotary worked with other groups to put on the first kayak/canoe race in 30 years this April.

Meanwhile, the summer that saw a brief flash flood also saw the sun. William Morton's wildflower project arose at the same time as other projects. The Village reached out to various business types to meet needs in the community. So far, the effort has paid off. Offices for an architect, an engineer, and an accountant have all met the Mayor's call. Morton's wildflowers attracted hundreds of visitors and created a boost for the local economy. New flags lined the streets. In June, Middleburgh held its second annual Heritage Day. The Best House, now under the stewardship of Bobbi Ryan of the Middleburgh Library saw a large increase of new and returning visitors, events, and a new sign. Quilt squares placed by the Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail now grace the Middleburgh Library, NBT Bank, and other structures around town.

The underlying success seems to be a plethora of effort from the community. Led by the local government and businesses, projects from the Rotary, Century Club, Library, and the churches have grown cohesive. The tax rate in the Village has remained at the same level for 2012, 2013, and 2014-- the first time since 1997. With help from Carver Stone, the former NAPA building on Main Street has been torn down and will be replaced with storefronts. A new coat of paint graces Kelley's Bar and Grill and an office on the opposite side of the street is seeing a total rehab. It hasn't had a business in it since the 1980s and now hosts a realty office that has returned since the flood. Another four office spaces are being fixed up in a collaboration between owners, the Village, and SALT.
One of two pavilions opened in the last three years
Just this past several year there have large gains for the small community. In early December, Valley Tax Accounting opened its doors on Main Street, as did this little paper. A pet store, Fish Tales and Fur, opened on Main Street in June. All told, ten businesses have opened since the effort began. There are currently eight additional business projects aiming to open in Middleburgh over the coming months. First will be the Green Wolf Brewery on Main Street and the new Valley Pharmacy. Other projects include the Green Iguana Bistro, a bookstore, and others.

Middleburgh still faces challenges, including bringing a grocery into the community, but its ascent surely seems to be reaching an apex.

Bounty of the County Recalls Hard Work, Future Progress

Written By Editor on 7/4/14 | 7/4/14

SALT held its second annual Bounty of the County dinner at the Carrot Barn last Saturday, attracting over 100 people for the fundraiser. The feast was set to raise thousands for flood recovery and highlight the hard work of many volunteers over the last three years.

The guests of honor included the Beekman Boys, who recounted that there was something unique to Schoharie County and that flood recovery was close, but not complete.

SALT Executive Director Sarah Goodrich praised the efforts of volunteers putting together Schoharie, Esperance, and Middleburgh. She remarked that the progress seen was beyond anyone's imaginations in 2011.

Overall, attendance was estimated at around 120, including State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who said that he would be coming back shortly with union volunteers to further the volunteer effort.

For Middleburgh Accountant, A Chance to Assist in Recovery

Written By Editor on 5/4/14 | 5/4/14

Francis Pipczynski didn't quite know what to expect when he accepted a meeting with Mayor Matthew Avitabile of Middleburgh. The Mayor had posted an ad online calling for an accountant to return to the community. The community's beloved accountant, Joe Muniz, had been forced out by Hurricane Irene. The first meeting went well, then the second, and then an introduction to Middleburgh's new Business Association.

By December 2013 an office was open on Main Street. The Village government furnished a small grant and a zero-percent loan to assist the opening of Valley Tax and Accounting. A website was up, later a Facebook page. Pipczynski didn't expect to make a killing in his first year, and wanted to be a part of the community's recovery. "My own belief is that there are only two types of people - hill finders and hill climbers and so far I have only met the latter," he said. The business community and local residents rallied around the new accountant. For the community it was more than another business-- the opening of the office was the ninth since 2012, marking the first time Middleburgh had more businesses than before the flood.

From Miracle on Main Street, December 2013. Photo credit Francis Pipczynski
Valley Tax took part in December's annual Miracle on Main Street and was amazed by the community outpouring of support. He publishes a newsletter for people to take advantage of saving and tax loopholes.
Part of the December newsletter
Pipczynski offers more than just accounting but also personal asset services, retirement planning, and bookkeeping for businesses. His office is at 296 Main Street in Middleburgh and can be reached at 827-3311.

Flood Grant Applications Due April 11

Written By Editor on 3/21/14 | 3/21/14

Anyone interested in applying for aid through the NY Rising program has about three weeks left to do so. The program, which aims to give grants to homeowners and business owners to pay for previous or current damage from 2011's flooding is closing its window. The program has supplied assistance to residents across the state, including those of Schoharie County.

If you or someone you know is interested in applying, call 1-855-697-7263 or visit

Middleburgh, SALT, College Team Up to Repair Flood Damage

SALT, the Village of Middleburgh, and a SUNY Oneonta fraternity are teaming up to fix up flood damage in Middleburgh's business district. In the collaboration organized through the Mayor's office, the three groups have agreed to fix up two office spaces along Railroad Avenue that remain gutted since the 2011 flood. SALT is providing the materials, worth up to $5,000, Phi Kappa Psi fraternity of SUNY Oneonta is providing labor, and the Mayor's office is coordinating the efforts.

The repairs will start on Saturday, March 22nd at 10 until 4pm. Multiple volunteer days are expected before the offices are completed. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Mayor Matthew Avitabile at 763-6854.

This comes after similar arrangements with the Village, building owners, and SALT to work on three other projects in the business district over the last year.

Zumba Event to Aid Flood Victims

Written By Editor on 1/17/14 | 1/17/14

All are invited to a Saturday, February 8th "Zumba-thon" to assist flood victims. The event, done in partnership with SALT is a great opportunity to exercise and also to help out a good cause. The three hour event offers a chance to learn new techniques and costs just $10 minimum donation.

More information can be found on the event page here.

Green Shirts Leaving Schoharie County

Written By Editor on 11/23/13 | 11/23/13

In an emotional ceremony on Monday, December 18th the hundreds of volunteers that assisted flood victims across the County were honored. The Green Shirts, affiliated with the Reformed Church are leaving after two years of service in the area. Many are moving on to help other flood victims affected by Hurricane Sandy. From SALT's press release:

Over the past two years, over 500 Green Shirt volunteers from all over the United States and Canada have come and donated a week or more of their time to helping to rebuild our homes and community. Many of these volunteers have come multiple times and stayed for 2 or more weeks at a time. Collectively, they have volunteered for over 53,000 hours - worth over $1,025,000 of inkind labor. 
In addition, the Green Shirts have spent over $225,000 in our area, supporting our local economy while rebuilding it. After the initial meetings between SALT and World Renew Regional Managers for New York and New England, Doug and Pat Guikema, reported to World Renew that the SALT recovery group was "one of the best organized, ready to lead the recovery efforts that they have had the privilege to work with" in the 10 years since they've been involved with World Renew and, that SALT was "ahead of the curve for Long Term Committees." 
"Closing down our Schoharie site comes with many mixed emotions," said Doug Guikema shares. "We are thankful that we were able to complete the homes that we did, and yet we know there are more families waiting for the assistance they need to finish rebuilding their home yet, and that makes it difficult to leave."

Cherry to Board: Relocate County Jail

Written By Editor on 11/15/13 | 11/15/13

County Treasurer and Flood Recovery Coordinator William Cherry presented multiple facets of ongoing relief efforts to the County Board of Supervisors earlier today. Among the items was a proposal to move the jail from its existing location to higher ground. The Harvey Stoddard complex remains heavily damaged and a complete solution has not been agreed upon.

On November 1 Senator Chuck Schumer visited the site and agreed with the position of elevation. Treasurer Cherry wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo's office asking for a solution. The issue revolving around the jail will be included with a set of FEMA-related issues that Cuomo's office is sending to Washington.

In his letter to the Governor, Cherry argues that replacing the jail in its current location "doesn't make sense if building a new, relocated facility is cost-effective." In his figures, $14 million would be required to fix the in situ jail and $18.7 to relocate the facility to a location out of the floodplain. He also points out that FEMA must consider the idea of rebuilding in a floodplain if "any such possibility exists."

Cherry continues that the existing site would not only be flood prone, but that emergency response could be hampered. "Every single one of those critical offices was rendered inoperable" due to Hurricane Irene.

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