VERMONT — An outpouring of community support has doused the state of Vermont following the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm Irene.
The United Way is directing Vermonters looking to donate money or volunteer time to two websites: one for volunteers looking to help (volunteer.truist.com/chittenden/volunteer) and one for agencies and towns in need (volunteer.truist.com/chittenden/agency).
Although the website for volunteers doesn’t currently list an abundance of opportunities, Helen Freismuth, co-director of the United Way of Addison County, urges people to stay tuned for new developments and be patient.
“The links to the volunteer sites are important because they’ll be coming and going and changing,” she said.
For individuals looking to help out now, there are several critical areas that could use a boost. Here’s what one can do:
• The mountain town of Rochester, which was smashed by last week’s flooding, is having two cleanup weekends — on Sept. 10 and 11, and on Sept. 17 and 18. Volunteers can call contact Cindy Ryan ahead of time at 802-767-9100 or simply show up at the town clerk’s office off School Street between 8 and 10 a.m. Those who lend a hand are encouraged to bring work gloves, dust masks, shovels, tools like crow bars, contractor trash bags, rubber boots and food to share.
• A group called Restoring Rutland is accepting provisions and organizing volunteers to help revive the central city and its nearby neighbors. For more information, visit the website (restoringrutland.org) or call organizers at 802-342-5693.
• The American Red Cross is requesting funds for its emergency relief program to provide food, shelter and medical care to those in need. Go to www.redcrossvtnhuv.org.
• The United Ways of Vermont are collecting donations for the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, created to aid in long-term recovery. Those interested in donating can do so via the Internet (www.unitedwayaddisoncounty.org), mail (48 Court St., Middlebury, VT 05753) or by simply dropping by the organizations’ Court Street office in Middlebury.
In the Little City, the Vergennes Lions Club has set up a collection for those affected by Tropical Storm Irene. Last week Vergennes Lions Club member Kevin Rooney contacted the club president saying that being the largest Lions Club in Vermont they should do something to help. Club President Larry Simino asked Rooney to take charge of the effort.
After contacting many disaster relief groups, Rooney started organizing club members to staff a trailer donated by Paquette Storage and parked in the Pomerleau Realty parking lot during the Labor Day weekend to collect items that interested folks would drop off. Lions also solicited items for donation from customers at the Vergennes Shaw’s market.
Long Trail Physical Therapy, Vergennes and Mount Abraham union high schools, Snake Mountain Cruisers Club, and area churches are also helping out in this effort.
By Monday, the 44-foot box trailer was about half full and about $1,000 in cash had been donated. Rooney said the trailer might be there later during the week to accept donations. Those interested in donating may contact Simino at 802-759-2448. The trailer will later be delivered to the Restore Rutland’s drop off center to help in distribution to affected communities. Cash donated will be sent to the Vermont Food Bank
This collection does not yet include clothing or other household items, but VT Response can tell folks where and when these items can be donated.
“We know that there are a lot of generous people here and I know everyone’s hearts opened when they saw the photos in the paper … but people are going to need help in the long-term,” said Freismuth, who encouraged local residents to be patient and to pay attention to the online volunteer board.
“It’s going to be a long-term recovery and people are going to need help along the way … so there will be opportunities to volunteer,” she said.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].