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November 8, 2012

Area pitching in with hurricane relief

By Richard Whitby
Cooperstown Crier

---- — As New York City, Long Island and New Jersey struggle to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Sandy, local individuals and groups in the region Monday were making plans to help.

Among them was the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The chapter, which covers Otsego, Oneida and Herkimer counties, “has deployed eight people in a number of different jobs, ranging from emergency operations center folks to disaster mental health folks, health services, staffing, logistics and sheltering,” said Kelly Brown, emergency services manager for the chapter.

“There are some from every county, and they are in multiple areas in the metropolitan area of New York,” he said.

Among the areas to which the Red Cross workers have been sent are Long Island and Staten Island, two of the worst-hit areas.

“Most of them were deployed last week,” Brown added.

To do all this, the Red Cross and other groups need money, and fundraisers are being planned to help fund the enormous relief effort.

Among the local fundraisers will be a benefit show Saturday at the Autumn Café on Main Street in Oneonta. Sophie Gault & Co. and Tough Crowd are scheduled to perform, and a $3 cover charge will be collected. Proceeds will go to the Oneonta Relief Corps, a group of students from the State University College at Oneonta who will be helping with the rebuilding efforts in the months to come.

Linda Drake, the director of SUNY Oneonta’s Center for Social Responsibility and Community, is coordinating campus efforts.

“We have several drives going on campus for pretty much anything you could think of: nonperishable foods, hygiene, flashlights and batteries, winter coats, mittens and hats,” she said. “It’s in all the residence halls. It’s a collaborative effort throughout the campus.”

The center also is compiling lists of students who have volunteered to go to the storm-ravaged area to help with the cleanup.

“We are trying to finds places that are safe and ready for volunteers to physically go down,” she said. “When we have a place to shower and sleep, we can go down for a weekend.”

“Things have to calm down in the disaster zone,” she added. “People still aren’t even allowed into their homes (other than) certain times of the day in parts of the area. So, when it’s safer, then we’ll make those decisions.”

Churches, too, are trying to help.

One collection is under way at Portlandville United Methodist Church.

Donations of such items as toothbrushes, soap, shoes, clothes, blankets, food, gasoline and generators are being accepted.

One load of items has already been sent south, Pastor MaryEllen Moore said.

That load went to Rockaway Beach, a long peninsula along the southern edge of Queens, that was not only was devastated by the storm but also by a fire that destroyed more than 100 homes. Donations of anything useful can be left in the closet next to front entrance of the church or through the side door Fellowship Hall.

She said her hope is that another truckload can leave this weekend, possibly for Staten Island.

Moore said she’s steering people who want to make cash donations to the United Methodist Committee on Relief. The organization’s website is at www.umcor.org.

Those who want to make a cash donation to the Red Cross can do so online at www.redcross.org. Donors can choose how their money is spent: where the need is greatest, for disaster relief or for their local chapters.

Local chapters include the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier Chapter, which covers Delaware, Chenango, Broome and Tioga counties.

The Mohawk Valley Chapter is at 303 West Liberty St., Rome, NY 13440, and 1415 Genesee St., Utica, NY 13501. The Southern Tier office is at 620 E. Main St., Endicott, NY 13761.