The following update is from Vern Hall, the Schoharie Basin Team Leader for Lutheran Disaster Response, of the situation in Upstate New York. The area was hit hard by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in August and September 2011 respectively leading to heavy rains and intense flooding. The update is also a good reminder that disaster response work is about the long-haul and even when national and regional attention fades the work still needs to be done.

On February 20, 2012, I had the pleasure of meeting with 60+ volunteers from Lutheran congregations in Columbia County in the flood-devastated town of Prattsville in the Schoharie Basin. They were a continuing part of the Lutheran volunteer presence in the area. On the 28th, 6 months into the recovery effort, there was a gathering of Remembrance, Hope and Recovery in the town of Schoharie. It occurred at 6:30PM, after sunset and the town was dark from the many still empty and unrepaired homes; still empty, because 6 months is not enough time, not enough money, and not enough workers to tackle the job of recovery. Not all the money from FEMA has arrived. Many still wait to hear from insurance providers. And people are simply exhausted. Preliminary estimates are that it will take at least $30,000,000 to recover to a new normalcy. Less than $2,000,000 has been raised. Interest has waned and those not affected wonder why the job is not yet done.

The Green Shirts – Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) are arriving March 7th to begin their assessment and that job is estimated to be finished by the end of March. At that time, our Long Term Recovery Group, SALT (Schoharie Area Long Term, Inc.) will have definitive answers as to just how much more will be needed. Disaster Case Management teams will begin receiving clients and referring them to the Unmet Needs/Financial Assistance Committee for resolution. Currently, there is not anywhere near enough funds to do the job. It is estimated that it will take at least 3-5 years to bring us to the new normalcy. Help will be needed from our friends and neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The faith community is playing a large role in the recovery and has done so since the floods happened. Several churches themselves were devastated, but rebuilding is going on. Hope springs eternal. Our faith makes us strong.

We are hopeful that other Lutheran congregations will continue to help us in the recovery to the new normalcy. Volunteers and yes, funding. And, it is not only in the Schoharie Basin that the troubles lie. The Binghamton area and areas along the Mohawk were also hit and will also need our help. Lutheran Disaster Response is stretched thin, even with help from the National church. More is needed and for a long period of time. Keep us in your prayers and remember us with your continued contributions. Donations should be channeled through Lutheran Disaster Response. Volunteers can contact SALT and they will be directed to where the need is.

– Vern Hall, Schoharie Basin Team Leader for Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR)

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