VIDEO: In Schoharie, volunteers rebuild a community ravaged by flood

The video clip starts with a group of volunteers from the Schoharie Teachers Association insulating William Nelson’s house on Main Street. Mostly I trust a notebook to capture people’s words, so here’s what’s not on tape.

“I worked construction all my life, but because of these tremors in my hands I can’t even hold a nail anymore,” Nelson said.

Bill Nelson stands on the back porch of his home at 240 Main St., Schoharie

He proceeded to talk about his service in Vietnam and the injuries he sustained there as well as years on the job. I asked him what it meant to him to have the insulation installed.

“Do you know what it’s like to not be able to fix my own house?” he asked.

I look away as I am ashamed that I had not listened closely enough to the meaning behind his listing of injuries. Nelson and I watch the work of Schoharie TA members Steve Hoard, Steve Usher, John Sorady, Janna O’Leary and Amy Hausman, who were joined by family and friends. After awhile he says, “This means the world to me.”

The next part of the video shows the effort at 111 Fair St. That’s the owner Susan McGiver’s voice calling the effort to reinsulate her business, the Harva Company, “awesome” and “phenomenal.”

The Harva Co. makes plastics parts for the electronics industry. 22 Harva employees have worked full-time cleaning up machinery in the six weeks since the flooding, but as of this writing they are still unable to restart production on any of their contracts with Lockheed Martin or General Electric.

In the video, you’ll see Jered Marcantonio, a Galway TA member talking about the effort of his students to UUP member Jared Stanley (operating a real video camera).

Next up in the video is Denise LaBadia of the Schoharie TA, who is insulating a bathroom. Then there’s Schoharie TA President Martin Messner welcoming the UFTers on Sunday morning.

Next up is a group of people walking. Since the UFTers came by bus, they had to walk to their work sites. The voice you hear is NYSUT’s Andy Pallotta talking about the work they’ll be doing for homes on Grand Street. Then you see UFTers working with the Mahopac TA to insulate Ben Griffin’s home.

The video ends with UFT President Michael Mulgrew asking for the whereabouts of one of his colleagues. A former carpenter, Mulgrew was able to install drywall that the homeowner, Tracy McGuinness-Booth, had purchased.

Here’s a list of NYSUT locals or other unions who signed in: Schoharie, NYSUT, UFT, Mahopac, CWA 1118, Troy, AFL-CIO, Schoharie Central EA, PEF, CSEA, CWA-Verizon, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Rensselaer-Columbia-Greene BOCES, Capital Region BOCES, Frankfort Schuyler, Galway , Guilderland, South Glens Falls, Albany, Ravena, Syosset, Professional Staff Association of NYSUT, Albany Labor Council, NYSUT Retiree Council 12, Amsterdam, Katonah-Lewisboro, Fonda, UUP chapter at Oneonta, the state Department of Labor and United Auto Workers.

Businesses supporting the effort include Price Chopper, Home Depot, United Way, Girl Scouts (both of Schuylerville and of Northeastern New York) and Boy Scouts, General Electric, NRC Carpenters, TJS Construction, Office of Mental Health, Town of Hoosick Lions Club, Duanesburg Presbyterian Reformed Church, Center for Disability Services, First Reformed Church, Habitat for Humanity, Future Farmers of America, Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership, and IBM. A notable is Congressman Paul Tonko.

Then there’s a whole bunch of initials I don’t know. So if you know what they stand for please comment. People signed in under UTEA, ACSO, NPPE, DRPC and CSG.

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3 Comments

  1. Betsy Sandberg October 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Folks: Here’s one of the emails I’ve received, with permission from Dorothy to share with you all.

    The Schoharie Valley residents are “my kind of people”, having grown up in a rural area of Tioga County.
    After we finished with the insulation work, I stayed and ended up raking yards in the village – and saw people driving around with carloads of pizza and soda – “thank you so much for helping; you don’t know how much we appreciate it. Are you hungry? Do you need something
    to drink?”
    I met people from church groups, students from SUNY Albany, high school students, and just random individuals like myself. I spoke to a homeowner who talked of “roving bands of 20-somethings”, groups of young people in work boots and work gloves who descended on the town – “what can we do to help?” Kitchen needs to be gutted? 30 minutes later the kitchen was out on the curb, and the group had moved on to the next house. “What can we do to help?”
    And I took a hard look at my comfortable privileged suburban life and my house full of “stuff” – and frankly didn’t like what I saw. Writing a check (even if it’s to RebuildGilboa or RebuildOwego or Schoharierecovery) is no longer enough. If any good can ever come of this disaster, it has shown that, given the opportunity, people are more than willing to “get their hands dirty” and do what they can to help others.
    The biggest problem right now is that while many of us are willing and eager to help, we don’t know what to do or how to do it (and have a very limited skill set). It takes an organized effort such as S.T.A.Y. to provide the structure and direction – once that is in place, the volunteers will come.
    So – we are still willing and eager, but need the structure and organization to keep the momentum going.
    Dorothy

  2. Matthew Maas January 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Hi Betsy,

    I was the person who signed in under the UTEA, which stands for the Upper Township Education Association. I am a school librarian in Cape May County, NJ, in the Upper Township School District, who has been visiting Middleburgh & Schoharie every summer for the past ten years (I have close friends whose family owns property in Schoharie County). While we were spared from the destruction down here on the Jersey Shore, my heart went out to those in Schoharie County who suffered so much loss. The least I could do last October was go up for a weekend and drop off donations my friends collected and then help someone get their home back in order. I spent three hours at Ben Griffin’s house helping with the insulation of the first floor. Hope all is well up in Schoharie, and I plan on being back up there sometime in April 2012.

    • Betsy Sandberg January 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      Thanks Matthew for all you are continuing to do. I will email you shortly!
      Best, Betsy

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