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Volunteers come from near and far

August 30, 2009
Observer Today


OBSERVER Staff Writer

SILVER CREEK - In recent weeks, numerous "out-of-towners" have come to aid in recovery efforts throughout the region, many with no connection to the area other than their compassion for local flood victims.

Article Photos

OBSERVER Photo by Matt Panebianco
Americorps volunteers began to wrap up their relief efforts in the village of Silver Creek on Friday after assisting residents for more than a week.

The support and cooperation between area municipalities, public officials and residents in the aftermath of the severe flooding which ravaged the region three weeks ago has been inspirational. However, equally heartening is the flood of generosity and assistance which has come from a variety of agencies and individuals outside of our immediate community.

"They are wonderful groups of people who are doing a fantastic job and are to be commended for their willingness to help," Hanover Supervisor Katherine Tampio said about several of the volunteer organizations which have been on site assisting area residents with cleanup.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief brought volunteers from all over the country. Between the villages of Silver Creek and Gowanda, there were more than 20 volunteers, representing relief teams from Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, New Hampshire, Vermont and Idaho.

These trained volunteers began arriving in the area immediately following the flood, with teams really hitting the ground running by Aug. 15.

'Focus on

the residents'

According to Tommia Palmer, with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief's National Incident Command Team, volunteers focused on residential areas within the two villages, helping property owners clean the mud out of their homes, remove damaged materials, and sanitize afterward. As a ministry organization, all work is performed free-of-charge, Palmer said.

"We work for the homeowners, and it's all volunteer work by trained volunteers," she explained.

In addition to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the West Seneca chapter of Americorps arrived on the scene in Silver Creek on Aug. 19 with a crew of eight. Volunteers hailed from all over Western New York, in particular Buffalo and surrounding suburbs, ranging in age from 17 to 27.

Upon their arrival, member Brandon Barry said volunteers began working in cooperation with local municipal officials, as well as the fire and police departments to assist with efforts to provide relief to the community.

"The main focus was on the residents," Barry said.

Americorps spent the first two days on Oliver Place, perhaps the most heavily flooded residential neighborhood, "mucking" basements. Since then, however, Barry said volunteers have been going on "rogue missions" throughout the community, helping any residents in need of assistance.

"We would have orders from the fire department, but if we were finished with those, we would actually go knocking door-to-door in certain areas to see what people needed," he explained.

Americorps volunteers also visited the village of Forestville to hand out flyers in order to spread word of available resources for flood victims in the area, working to connect those in need with the help they require.

Of the 127 reports of people in need less than a week ago, Barry said Thursday Americorps has serviced upwards of 80 of them.

Coming home to help

However, volunteer agencies from outside the area were not the only ones to come to the assistance of flood victims in need.

Christyne Nadeau, a former Silver Creek resident, was compelled to act when she learned about the devastation.

"Silver Creek is my hometown; I grew up there," she said. "When I found out about it Monday, the morning after it happened, I was pretty upset about it because I still have family and friends who are still there, and I wanted to do something to help."

On the Tuesday following the flood, after learning about the significant losses of the Silver Creek Fire Department, she contacted fire department officials to receive a list of the equipment lost.

Nadeau then had the list posted on the Monroe County Fire Wire Web site and was put in touch with a local fire department through a co-worker at Time Warner Cable.

Almost immediately, she said she began receiving e-mail after e-mail from more than 30 fire departments from all over the state looking to help.

"By Saturday, I had collected 30 sets of turnout gear, 20 pairs of boots, gloves, and some other little stuff and was able to bring it out," Nadeau said, adding she was greatly assisted by her boyfriend, Daniel Ludwig, who's also a fireman.

Fire company assisted

Now, three weeks later, she continues to receive offers of donations from fire departments.

John Muscarella, born and raised in Silver Creek, though now residing in Plano, Texas, was contacted by Nadeau to complete the replacement of Silver Creek Fire Department gear. According to both, the fire department had lost 30 helmets, valued at around $200 apiece.

"The laws are those men are unable to fight a fire without total proper equipment," Muscarella explained, "so it was kind of a critical thing for them that they get their equipment back in order."

After contacting a company which manufactures the necessary equipment to work out a price, Muscarella said he purchased 30 helmets and donated them to the fire department. They arrived this past Tuesday, he added.

Muscarella also contacted Hewitt-Packard to have them donate two computers, complete with monitors and three-in-one fax machines, printers and copiers, to replace those lost at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church and the village hall. The computers arrived Thursday, he said.

"I grew up in that town," Muscarella said of his efforts and generosity, "and I know it's very difficult for them to raise money for a major organization ... I was glad to be able to do that and help out."

Nadeau also said her employer, Time Warner Cable, recently delivered a number of crates of personal hygiene products to the Silver Creek Food Pantry for flood victims.

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