Irene Recovery: What You Can (Still) Do To Help
As the new academic year began for Middlebury College Community, so did a new chapter in Vermont History – the beginning stages of recovery from the damage of Hurricane Irene. Reports of damage to Vermont from Irene inundated the news in late August as images of covered bridges collapsing and flooding shocked the nation. As Middblog previously reported at the time, Vermont was declared a federal disaster area while the Middlebury locale luckily escaped without any damage.
Students may have noticed road closures on their way back to campus, seen pictures of the incredible volunteer response of Athletic Teams on campus for pre-season on the Middlebury College website homepage, or noticed the incredibly thorough Irene coverage of The Campus’ first issue, on the front cover , staff editorial, and Reader Op-Ed from Senator Sanders. As of September 27th, hundreds of Middlebury faculty, staff, and students had already volunteered over 2,800 hours.
But the recovery is far from over.
As one of the student coordinators of Irene Relief, Ali Urban ’12 reflects: “I don’t know that people really comprehend the extent of the devastation… just because it’s not in our immediate sight. I know for me just driving from home to here I saw that a road was closed but I didn’t see the homes destroyed, I didn’t see fields with hundreds of tires left in them, things like that. And I think that makes it less urgent, but it is an urgent need.”
Fellow coordinator Jessica Appelson ’12 agreed, noting that one of hard things is that “the damage is also really sporadic. There are definitely towns that were hit a lot harder, but even within those towns you can see a house that looks beautiful and wasn’t touched at all, right next door to a house that was completely destroyed.”
Even the houses that look great from the outside can reveal surprises, they added. One of the houses at a recent volunteer site “looked great from the outside, so you’d be like ‘oh this is fine,’” Urban noted, but volunteers were still urgently needed to help clean the basement from the flooding.
Urban and Appelson are part of a five member student Leadership Team, Middlebury Hurricane Relief, which quickly assembled to coordinate the larger Middlebury College participation in relief efforts. Each team member focuses on a specific part of the relief effort, all vital to the effort’s success: Jessica Appelson ’12 – Individual Volunteers, Lea Calderon-Guthe ’11.5—Towns, Ali Urban ’12—Group Volunteers, Firas Nasr ’15—EIA/Supplies, and Dot Kuria ’12—Fundraising.
Urban notes: “we’re just going to keep sending people until they don’t need help anymore.”
Appelson and Urban explain that you don’t have to be the type to lift stacks of sandbags in order to make a difference.
“You don’t need any special skills, so if you can lift things and walk and shovel and have a positive attitude, you’re good to go…
” Urban notes. The Relief Team is also looking for anyone with ideas for fundraising benefits, or any other ideas of how to help. Urban explains, “No matter what skill you think you do or you don’t have, there’s a way that you can help.”
As they continue discussing memories of sites they’ve shared, you would almost think they are getting the most out of the volunteering.
“I’ve just really enjoyed meeting people that I wouldn’t have.” Urban notes, “We’ve meet really cool people, I have been impressed by their tenacity. Yeah something really terrible happened, but they’re fixing it, they’re working hard, and I’m glad that we could help.” For more information, please contact email@example.com and visit their website at go/relief.
Would you like to help in Hurricane Irene Relief? Here are the top four ways you can help right now!
1. Volunteer! (The most urgent need)
For a group (student orgs, teams, etc.), fill out this form: Hurricane Relief GROUP Volunteer Sign-Up. For Individuals (including groups of friends) fill out this form: Hurricane Relief INDIVIDUAL Volunteer Sign-up.
2. Purchase a “Together Vermont” T-shirt at the Box Office, College Bookstore, or Center for Education in Action at the Adirondack House! At only $15, all proceeds go towards the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund! (For $18, a tshirt can be purchased online and mailed anywhere in the U.S.)
3. Donate Blood with the American Red Cross. This Wed., Oct. 5, 11am-4pm right here on Campus at McCullough Social Space
4. Donate to relief efforts through the Vermont Red Cross or through the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, created by Vermont Emergency Management, United Ways of Vermont, and other organizations to address unmet long term needs of disaster survivors statewide. Click here for more ideas for donating.