The Fuller’s kitchen before and after SALT’s assistance
SALT continues to help people of all ages recover from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee; however, a significant number of these people are senior citizens.
Ken Dingee says, “Among all of the households in the county that were impacted by Irene and Lee, the percentage of seniors is approx 36%. But the percentage of our clients who are seniors and have requested and received assistance from SALT is significantly greater at 58%.”
We asked two women who are seniors and are still trying to recover from the flooding exactly what these numbers meant to them.
Joan Gallagher, a retired social studies teacher who is president of the Schoharie Retired Teachers Association and very active in the community, suffered significant damage to her home and property on River Street in Middleburgh. She says that though the efforts of local recovery organizations and volunteers have been nothing short of a miracle, she is certain that seniors like herself and her neighbors could not afford to go through another flood.
“There is clearly a large senior population in Schoharie County, and this is a low income area. Many of these people simply did not have the wherewithal to recover, and they needed help when they ran out of what few resources they had.”
She went on to explain that retired seniors often do not have the funds, materials and support to spring back as quickly as people still working and bringing in greater incomes.
Sara Auserehl, also a resident of Middleburgh, says she has tapped out all of her money to fix her house on Middlefort Road. She is thankful to have support from a large family that pitched in to help her recover. But she is also concerned that this number of seniors also means that young people are not returning to the county.
“Where are the young people to go in this community? There is no industry, nothing for them to do here. All three of my sons went away, got their Masters Degrees, and got high-powered jobs. They just couldn’t stay here; there isn’t anything to support them.”
Auserehl went on to describe that what the county needs right now are people to help rebuild the community not just in the physical structures. This means building a community with economic strength that can support itself in the long run. SALT has supported business, economic and community recovery throughout the Schoharie Creek basin and will continue to do so by advancing efforts to ensure all our towns and villages are once again
vibrant, thriving, resilient and sustainable.Though both these women expressed their concern, they are also very thankful for the work and effort that has been put into helping them recover. Gallagher says that working with SALT and the volunteers has restored her faith in the American Spirit, and pride in the community; “Everyone needs to make a commitment to help, not just during disaster. We need community pride, and we cannot let the economy and the hard times let this become a ghost town.”
Auserehl expressed great gratitude toward SALT; “This valley simply could not do it without SALT. This porch you are standing in right now would not be here without them, and neither would any of these people.”
Another senior family who received assistance from SALT is the Fullers. A mere few weeks before Hurricane Irene devastated their small town in Blenheim, New York, Joseph and Barbara Fuller had finally completed remodeling their home. Joe, a former Marine and retired truck driver, had spent years going room by room as time and money permitted to turn the house into their dream home. After the flood water destroyed their entire first floor and all the years of hard work, the Fullers were sure they would never be able to return home. Thankfully people like Robin Alley helped them believe they could. Donations started to come in and with the assistance of SALT and many other agencies the Fullers will finally able to move home. “We would never have been able to go home without SALT, ” Barbara stated.
The ongoing effort to help each and every person to complete recovery continues. Both Sara Auserehl and Joan Gallagher still have needs to be met, just like many others in the community. Though these people are of all ages and come from different backgrounds, they are still all part of the same community we call home. Any support you can give to help SALT assist those affected by the flood is another step closer to full community recovery!
Written by Sarah Roberts