Fort Plain still seeking helping hands

FORT PLAIN – Lisa Puccio, of Richmond, Va., brought her son Chris, 9, and daughter Jen, 7, to the village recently. They came to visit family and lend a hand with the cleanup from the recent flooding.

Puccio, who grew up in the village, brings her children every summer to see their grandparents.

“I figured, while I’m here, I’m going to help,” she said.

Nancy Ryan, pastor of the Fort Plain Reformed Church, said volunteers are desperately needed. There seems to be more work that needs to be done than volunteers, she said.

While volunteers filled the streets in the days following the flooding June 28, the numbers have dropped.

“[When the cleanup] started out we had 150 [volunteers] a day starting June 30,” Ryan said.

However, she said, they currently have 50 to 75 volunteers at a time run through the church.

“We are getting to the stage where mucking is winding down,” Ryan said.

The village needs volunteers who can do heavy lifting, she said.

Puccio did not just offer her work to help with the cleanup. The organization Hockey Fights Hunger, a charity group in Richmond, Va., gave Puccio a $500 check to give to the village after learning she was raised there.

“It was really horrible to see online,” Puccio said, who was concerned about her parents. Thankfully, she said, their home was not flooded.

Puccio said she tried to explain to her children what the village looked like in the past, before the flood damage.

“They don’t have the memories I have from living here,” Puccio said, noting it was sad to see homes with condemned signs on the front.

Kim Carter, a village resident, said she had been volunteering since the flood happened.

“It’s my hometown. It’s what you do,” Carter said. “We help the people in need.”

Carter said she thinks the village is recovering, thanks to the efforts of volunteers.

However, she noted, it is far from over.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Carter said.

Some homes have only just recently been drained or cleaned out, Carter said.

“I don’t know how these people are going to recover financially with all this damage done,” Carter said.

President Barack Obama on Friday declared 12 upstate New York counties – including Montgomery County – a federal disaster area due to recent flooding that will help state and local governments.

No decision has been made yet on whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individual Assisstance program will be utilized to help individuals.

Much of the damage Carter has seen has been mud and water damage.

“I found a house on Route 80 just the other day that still had water in the basement,” Carter said last week.

Ryan said many homes and businesses have heavy objects that need removal, so there is a need for people with “strong backs.”

“In the village itself, we are now in basements, looking for people who can help [with] taking down some of the sheetrock and insulation,” Ryan said.

Lighter work, such as helping distribute food, is being handled out of the United Methodist Church, Ryan said.

“Most of the work we have right now here in the village is heavy duty stuff, and we need strong backs to do that,” Ryan said.

On Saturday, Fort Plain Mayor Guy Barton said about 50 buildings in the village have been condemned due to flood damage.

With over 175 homes and businesses compromised, Ryan said, 75 percent of them have come to her asking for assistance.

“So, let’s say 100 residents at least,” Ryan said.

Other volunteers, who are not involved with any group, have been working around the local area as well, Ryan said.

“So, any and all business and home owners who asked for help got it,” Ryan said.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief will begin working in the village, along with other organizations.

“It’s been on Facebook, it’s been on the news, we sent out information saying what we need, even person to person,” Ryan said.

Ryan said if people want to help, they can call the church at 993-4302 to see what work is available. Donations also are accepted, she said, with 100 percent of the funds going to assist the community.

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