3:16pm

Thu November 1, 2012
Developing

Upstate volunteers converge on worst hit areas: update

Yesterday, Don Peters had no idea what he would be doing come today, but this morning he was making breakfast for about 120 victims of hurricane Sandy in a shelter on Long Island.

Dozens of volunteers across upstate New York bundled into cars yesterday to head downstate and help out with the recovery effort in the aftermath of the storm.

Caravans of vehicles from several chapters of the Red Cross wound their way to White Plains, NY to get their assignments.

None of the volunteers knew what they would be doing on their assignments, or where they would be going, they just wanted to help.

A retired high school teacher, Peters says it is a common desire that brings the 170 volunteers from upstate to leave their lives behind for the two week assignments.

“It’s just a general feeling of a desire to help other people. There are people in need right now." 

Peters says most people in the shelter where he is come from the Long Beach area where there was extensive damage.

But, he says about 15 of the beds are occupied by electrical workers who have come to help out and couldn't find any vacant hotel rooms.

The shelter is running on a generator as it is in an old school building that remains without power.

Volunteers are sleeping on cots in a conference room, while residents using the shelter are camped out in the gym.

Peters says they have no showers at the shelter and he is not sure how long he will be working there.

But for now he says he is just happy to be helping out. 

Background:

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, community members across upstate New York have mobilized to help out.

As WRVO's Ellen Abbott reports, central New Yorkers are helping the millions of people affected by Sandy.  Agencies like the Salvation Army and Church World Service are raising money or collecting donations for storm victims.  Others, like Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteers  will go to the areas hardest hit by the storm.

Red Cross chapters from across upstate New York are sending 170 volunteers downstate to work in shelters, community kitchens, and on the ground.

Northeast New York is sending 85 volunteers, western New York and central New York are sending 25, and 26 volunteers respectively, and the Finger Lakes area is sending 34.

Across the four areas, volunteers are coming from about 16 counties and taking three emergency response vehicles with them to help clean up downstate.

Don Peters is a retired high school teacher and text book salesman from Waterloo, New York.

He has been a disaster relief volunteer with the Finger Lakes chapter of the Red Cross for five years, and today he is headed to White Plains.

Driving in a convoy of seven cars from the Finger Lakes district, Peters and the others do not know where they will be stationed, or what they will be doing.

Once they get to White Plains they will be assigned and deployed to different missions. But Peters says, like the three others in the car with him, he doesn’t mind what he’s doing, just wants to help.

“It’s just a general feeling of a desire to help other people. There are people in need right now down in New York city, and New Jersey and Long Island and other places and I have the opportunity being retired, because I’ve got the time, I know other people have taken time off work to volunteer, and we just happen to have the time to do this sort of thing. A feeling of a desire to help, I think that’s all it is.”

Peters is driving with a fellow retiree, a construction worker, and a business owner; people he had never met before today, and people he probably won’t see again for the length of his deployment.

They are all headed downstate for assignment stints of up to two weeks, but each assignment will differ.

Peters says those involved in assessing the damage may go home in about six days, but the need for shelters and mental health assistance could remain for weeks.

He says they are not nervous about what they will see when they head into the affected areas, they just don’t know what to expect.

“It’s not a sense of being nervous, just anxiety because I don’t know what I’ll be doing and where,” he says.

Regardless of where they end up, and for how long, Peters says they’ll be helping to get the job done.

“The Red Cross is pretty well organized and it’s bringing together quite an operation with thousands of people, thousands of volunteers and of course dealing with tens of thousands of people in need. And, they’re very efficient. It’s odd to say that, but they get the job done.”

Help headed upstate too:

While Peterson and his fellow volunteers head downstate, electricity crews from across western New York are heading upstate to the Rochester area.

Rochester Gas & Electric company officials say throughout their assessment of the damage after Sandy, they have discovered 76 power poles and more than 600 wires down in their service region.

Additional crews from Elmira, Ithaca, Binghamton, Canandaigua, Filmore, and Buffalo are arriving to help repair the damage and get the system up and running at full capacity.

Nearly 7,000 people are still without power in Monroe County two days after Sandy hit the area despite crews working through the night.

Customers can find approximate restoration times for some areas at the RG&E outage central website.

RG&E spokesman Dan Hucko says they will distribute dry ice for those who will remain without power today and tomorrow.

“We are going to distribute some dry ice today for our customers who are still out of power to help them keep their food cold,” Hucko says.

He says there will be two distribution centers open in the Rochester area from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. tonight, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow in the following locations:

  • 195 Mushroom Blvd, Henrietta, NY
  • 880 Plank Rd, Penfield, NY
Tags: