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Businesses and individuals step up after 'superstorm'

November 11, 2012
By AMANDA METZGER , The Leader Herald

Standing amid boxes and bags stuffed with clothing, blankets, tools and other goods, Eileen King relayed the story of her two sisters' survival in Staten Island as the Oct. 29 coastal surge from Superstorm Sandy destroyed their home and threatened their lives.

Now a Johnstown resident, King is originally from Staten Island, her accent still clear.

"They got upstairs, jumped from the roof into the water and swam in it," she said. "The water was over their heads, and some man with a lantern on his porch was saying, 'Come on, You can do it!'"

Article Photos

volunteers work to
package donations for victims of
Superstorm Sandy on Thursday at the Euphrates Warehouse in Johnstown. (Amanda Metzger/The Leader-Herald)

King said her sisters thought they would die in the storm, but the encouragement of the man, a police officer, helped them get through the water and the night as he provided them with dry clothes and took them in.

"Sometimes God can provide a light in the darkness," said King's friend, Darcy Panetta, as the two along with several other volunteers gathered in a Euphrates warehouse to sort an outpouring of donated items from the local community.

With 53-foot tractor trailer stuffed from the floor to the ceiling with donations, King, Panetta and others are hoping to provide a little more light for the victims, many of whom are still without power nearly two weeks later.

When it comes to disaster recovery, many think of the government. But when it comes to providing goods and logistics to get help to hard hit areas, many business leaders step up to show how the free enterprise system shines - whether it be through providing donations, funding, space or reach.

Giving space

Wanting to do her part, King began collecting donations quickly. Soon King and Panetta's homes were stacked with boxes of goods. But the questions of how to transport everything, and then how to get back amid gas shortages and traffic, remained.

Then King and Panetta met Lisa Miner of the feta cheese company Euphrates, who knew King's sisters and wanted to help plan a local benefit.

Euphrates in Johnstown offered its warehouse space to organize the donations, place them on pallets and secure them. It also provided a great space to load the 53-foot tractor trailer with nearly 30 pallets, donated for use by Ariton Transport, that departed Saturday for Staten Island.

"Everything is donated," Miner said. The costs for tolls and diesel were donated, and even pizza for volunteers were either donated by the restaurant or expensed, she said. Miner also opened her home up as a donation drop-off site.

"The outpouring of love and generosity from the people of out Fulton County - people had tears in their eyes and said they remembered when they went to Staten Island. One lady in church literally gave me the coat off her back [as a donation]," King said.

Without Euphrates and Ariton Transport's help, figuring out how to deliver the donations would have been very difficult for King and Panetta, but to Miner, it was a simple choice to help.

"But it is worth mentioning," King said. "After work, all these people are exhausted, and they're still showing up anyway. I will never forget it - ever."

Providing reach

Many businesses are providing collection spaces for easy donation drop-off spots. Within days of the storm Laura Harrison opened her yoga studio and community center, Enlighten, at 37 Prospect St., Amsterdam, as a donation drop-off site. As the donations grew she teamed up with Greta Frasier, of Caroga Lake, who also has been collecting items and is working with King, Panetta and Miner as well.

On Wednesday, Harrison will head to Brooklyn and Long Island to deliver whatever she has left and help with the clean-up effort.

"It's a responsibility you have when you have this kind of reach - to use it for good," Harrison said. "It should be a natural reaction to circumstances. It's a privilege and honor. I'm very happy to do this and really fortunate to have a couple other instructors at this point [so she can go downstate.] I used to run the business entirely by myself so it would have been too tough to go down, but there's always a way around it."

Today, from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. the studio will hold a KIRTAN session with Christen Rajter. The cost is a suggested $15 donation for relief supplies such as tools to be delivered from Wednesday to Nov. 18 on Harrison's relief trip.

KIRTAN is a yoga practice, but it involves chanting and singing instead of physical posing.

"It's energy building," Harrison said. "It's really cleansing for the heart and an opening refreshing form of mediation in a sense. You feel really grounded, really present and [there is] a very joyful loving feeling in a general crowd of people, so you get this connection."

She encouraged people to check around their homes for tools and buckets they may not use. Her studio is open as a drop-off site during scheduled class hours from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and 3:45 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"Don't think anything is too little. A lot of people are concerned about not having money to donate, but there could be something [valuable] just lying around," she said.

Feeding many

Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. with its town of Florida location was familiar with havoc brought by flooding and high winds from Tropical Storm Irene in its back yard in August 2011. This year the company will work with the American Red Cross to use a warehousing facility in New Jersey to distribute $80,000 worth of food to Superstorm Sandy victims downstate and in New Jersey.

"It wasn't that long ago when Hurricane Irene devastated upstate New York, displacing many families across the region for several weeks," said Beech Nut President Jeff Boutelle in a news release. "We recognize the overwhelming challenges that so many families will now be facing in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. As a result, many parents will not have the ability to provide their children with the most basic necessities. That is why we are partnering with the American Red Cross to ensure the families impacted by Sandy will have nutritious food to provide their children as they start the recovery process and begin to rebuild."

The donation to the Red Cross includes 40 pallets of infant and baby food products like stage one through five jarred fruit and vegetable baby food, banana cookies, box cereal and healthy baked snacks.

"Certainly it's a fundamental corporate responsibility that Beech-Nut takes very seriously, especially considering people who are impacted are often infants and children," said Beech-Nut spokesman Earl Wells. "When they need food, Beech-Nut is someone natural to pick up the ball and fill that void."

Wells said Beech-Nut maintains relationships with organizations like the Red Cross to consistently give inventory to disaster victims.

"They call and coordinate delivery and the American Red Cross will actually distribute it on the ground," he said. "It's something they're always willing to do. To step up to the plate whether it's in the local community, New York City, or like last year with the tornadoes in the south."

"Last year Beech-Nut stepped right up to the plate to delivery arrangements, transportation and logistics to get the product out," he said.

Gary Striar, CEO of the American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region, said in a news release he was "very proud" to work with Dave Scianimanico, who is vice chair of the ARCNENY Board of Directors and chief supply chain officer of Beech-Nut Nutrition.

"Dave brings an immense amount of energy and compassion to our organization," he said in a news release. The Red Cross will be available for several weeks to provide food, shelter and relief supplies to people still picking up the pieces nearly two weeks after Superstorm Sandy.

Schenectady-based Price Chopper and WNYT, Channel 13, launched the "Your Help Counts: Sandy" fundraising pin-up campaign for the American Red Cross.

Through the campaign, Price Chopper will match the first $10,000 raised by its customers. People can purchase window signs for $1 at Price Chopper to show their support for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Price Chopper will have Red Crosses available at checkouts in all 130 stores located in this state, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

The "Your Help Counts" fundraising program has been an ongoing partnership for 15 years that is activated after disasters.

CDPHP donated $5,000 as well to American Red Cross Disaster Relief to help victims of Superstorm Sandy.



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