B y Derek Liebig
After nearly two months of dealing with high water, flood victims received a helping hand as volunteers began clearing debris and mucking houses Saturday.
Nearly 30 volunteers from Whitehall and beyond converged on the community wielding chainsaws, gas powered pumps, hammers and even a tractor as crews began to clean up from the most prolonged period of flooding most residents can recall.
The efforts were organized by the Bay Road Presbyterian Church Neighbor to Neighbor Mission Team, of Lake George.
Janice Holding, one of the groups’ leaders spent the day Friday assessing the properties of local residents who had asked for assistance, trying to determine what tasks needed to be completed on each piece of property.
The following day, volunteers met at the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire House, where they were assigned to different work crews at one of six properties located on Lower Main Street, North Williams and Doig Streets.
The project attracted volunteers from Hoosick Falls, Hague, Whitehall, Granville, Hartford, Lake George, Schenectady and Clifton Park.
Dusty Lockhurst and her son Bruce were two of the volunteers who made the long drive from the Capital District to aid in the clean up efforts.
Lockhurst, who lives in Schenectady and is a member of the South Schenectady Fire Department, said she lived on School Street for a few years as a teenager and heard about the flooding and the subsequent attempts to organize a clean up effort and felt compelled to lend a helping hand.
“It’s a way to help out. The people here have taught me a lot. I starting playing soccer here, something I continued to do through college and wanted to give back. The people are great. They took good care of us,” Lockhurst said.
“The town hasn’t changed a bit. It’s nice to be back.”
Lockhurst said she was familiar with flood cleanup, having volunteered with similar efforts in the past.
Also traveling from the Capital District was the Clifton Park based American Baptist Men of New York State Disaster Relief team.
Coordinator Art Sabourin said the group focuses on short term response, usually targeting the clean-up portion of disaster relief efforts.
With a large trailer of tools and a half dozen able bodied volunteers, the group focused on cutting broken limbs from trees and pumping our basements that still held water.
Across the lake, Mayor Peter Telisky and village trustee Michael LaChapelle volunteered their time to haul away organic matter that had washed up on many residents yard.
Granville veterinarian Rodger Ellis donated the use of his John Deere tractor to load wood into a truck to be hauled away.
Back at the firehouse, Sally Peterson prepared lunch for volunteers while her husband Jim mucked out a house on North Williams Street.
Volunteers also included flood victims themselves.
Kristie Clemons and her husband Tom, helped other volunteers remove sheetrock from Kristie’s grandparents house despite the fact they had spent weeks cleaning their own flooded home.
“All they’ve dealt with and they are still helping,” said Shelia Martel, Kristie’s mother.
Martel said she wasn’t sure if the multi-generation house could be saved, but thought they’d have a better idea after volunteers removed sheetrock and exposed the studding. William Myzak, who lives on Lower Main Street was happy to see the volunteers.
“It’s nice to have some help,” he said.
Other than some water in the basement and a ruined furnace, he believes his house survived any lasting damage.
Holding said the group will hold other “work days” next month as they continue to clean houses and put others back together.
Abby Wald, who lives on North Williams Street, but whose house wasn’t affected by flooding, said the groups efforts have made a big difference.
“A lot of our neighbors need help, but you just don’t know where to start. An organized effort like this helps.”