A Helpful Journey

The following was contributed by Gene and Edie Pigford, Lt. Colonels from The Salvation Army

Our journey began on Tuesday, August 30. Edie and I travelled to Oneonta to support the Salvation Army Command Center which was helping provide emergency relief intervention in communities devastated by Hurricane Irene.

Our first stop was Fleishmans where we stopped at a canteen from Ohio under the leadership of Lt Jason Price. The canteen was based at a local church which was coordinating local relief efforts. Local residents were appreciative of the food, including members of a Hassidic community who were pleased at the availability of kosher food.

Next was Margaretville, a community hit with considerable impact from Irene. One of the lifelong residents described seven feet of water coming down the town’s main street. Severe structural damage appears to have rendered the old historic section of Main Street not salvageable. The town is awaiting final word concerning the loss of this resource. One resident was concerned about his pets that he had to leave behind when they were told to evacuate. He was later able to retrieve them, but was struggling to find living arrangements for both him and his pets.

The Margaretville Fire Department was most appreciative of our efforts to convey some supplies on their behalf to the Prattsville community

Roxbury was well served by a canteen from Buffalo. They were able to coordinate with a local pastor and school principal to provide food, cleaning supplies and spiritual care to community residents. We had the privilege of praying with them and ask God to bless their efforts and their community.

By far the most devastated community was Prattsville. We were able to reach the community by back roads, some of which went directly through the devastated areas. The Army established a canteen relief site and distributed food and cleaning supplies to area residents and relief workers.  A local church is currently providing hot meals in a tent, but the pastor indicated that soon these volunteers will need to look after their own homes. The State Police helped us connect with an 82 year old woman that had not been out of her house since the hurricane hit.

A few local merchants were very discouraged by the damage done to their businesses and questioned whether rebuilding would be worth it. The town supervisor was very helpful and encouraging to the community, offering hands-on assistance to residents.

The town has limited water and will not have power for some time due to broken power lines. Most of the town residents we came across were in good spirits and working hard to rebuild their towns.

Our sense is that some communities will recover fairly quickly. But others, like Margaretville and especially Prattsville, will need ongoing support for some time.

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