Volunteers help with Irene recovery in West Pawlet

west-pawlet-cleanup-effortBy Jaime Thomas

For a lot of area residents, Tropical Storm Irene is a thing of the past. Others are still dealing with the storm’s destruction.

And while federal funding is in place to help those who need it, sometimes it’s not enough.

In West Pawlet, flooding from the storm tore out a 100-year-old slate retaining wall and inundated an elderly woman’s entire yard with water from the Indian River, causing damage to several other structures as well.

“We were able to get funds to clean up the yard; it was a huge mess,” said Andrea Varney, volunteer and resource coordinator for the Rutland County Long Term Recovery Committee. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) set up similar committees in counties throughout Vermont following the August 2011 storm.

However, there was still more work to do on the West Pawlet woman’s property.

“She very much wanted to get it put back together, and there wasn’t any funding available,” Varney said. So looking for some help, Varney contacted Keith Mason, who was able to put her in touch with volunteers.

“Keith Mason was an incredible resource; he was very, very helpful,” she said.

So stone mason Rik Sassa, and Justin and John Edwards of Edward’s Excavating responded to the request along with volunteer Will Levine, from Castleton, and rebuilt the slate wall. The men spent seven hours last Saturday and other time meeting with the homeowner to do the work.

“It’s such a miracle that I just called these people out of the blue, and they were ready to help,” Varney said. She estimates the men donated $2,500 worth of time, labor, materials and equipment.

Leon Corey Excavation offered a truck, a load of gravel and an excavator with a thumb, and the Edwards gave 14 hours of labor and the use of their machinery. The town of Pawlet and the Rising and Nelson Slate Quarry donated the slate, and Sassa lent his masonry expertise.

“Rik was so willing to take the lead; he’s the most important person, and we couldn’t have done it without him,” Varney said.

And to keep these volunteers fit and full throughout the day, the Pawlet Community Church provided lunch and dinner for them, while Price Chopper donated cases of water.

The effort in West Pawlet isn’t unique. Varney said volunteers and contractors have donated over 400 hours of labor to Irene recovery since April.

“I’m finding it all over Rutland County. The generosity of these people has just been incredible,” she said.

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