Recovering after Irene, a puzzle piece at a time
Promotion uses puzzle pieces to invite visitors to post-storm recovery
Published 6:17 pm, Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Homes and businesses that were left a jumbled, muddy mess after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene tore through the picturesque Schoharie Valley almost two years ago are coming back, a piece at a time, like a puzzle being assembled.
On Wednesday, with that symbolism in mind, two groups that have been supporting restoration efforts released a marketing promotion that uses puzzle pieces to encourage people to visit the area and see that progress for themselves.
“It is amazing to see how far this area has come,” said Jessica Loden Kirby, director of the Schoharie Valley Association, during a press conference at her business, Apple Barrel Country Store and Cafe just outside the village of Schoharie.
The association and Schoharie Area Long Term, a not-for-profit recovery coalition formed in Irene’s aftermath, are using a puzzle to raise funds to continue rebuilding efforts. Different pieces will be available at 30 valley businesses, historic sites and museums along a 65-mile route.
Players pay $5 to get an official collecting bag, and then get pieces free at participating businesses. At the end, the completed puzzle is a color picture of the valley in the summer, and the players will have visited and hopefully shopped at businesses that rely on tourism.
“We want to share the recovery process, to encourage people to come and see,” said Sarah Goodrich, SALT executive director. “At the same time, we are not done. Even now, people are still coming to us and saying they need help with rebuilding.”
Irene damaged some 2,000 properties in the region, according to Goodrich. With help from about 150,000 hours of free labor from 30,000 volunteers, SALT has helped on more than 600 such properties with gutting, rebuilding, and payments to owners. Still, owners of about 300 properties remain in need of help, and 60 of those involve major reconstruction.
Goodrich said SALT has a fundraising goal of about $600,000 to continue its work, and is now about halfway there. The puzzle promotion starts now and will continue through Columbus Day weekend.
On Main Street in the village, a number of new businesses have opened in renovated storefronts, one of which has a plaque indicating the high-water mark from Irene that was over a man’s head.
“We are not victims any longer, we are survivors,” said Leslie Price, who reopened her three-decade-old hair salon a year to the day from the flood, which ruined that business, another salon that Price had a few miles away in Middleburgh, and even Price’s own home in the village.
She had to live in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but now lives in an apartment above her shop.
Her home was among those that were so badly damaged that it had to be demolished. “It was pretty hard to watch them knock it down,” said Price. In March, FEMA announced that it was demolishing 37 ruined homes where the owners had sold out to FEMA.
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