Cheri Bland and her daughter Maddalyn (aged 7) stand in their “new” kitchen.
Derry Bland, his wife Cheri, and their five children Samantha, and Maddalyn, have loved the old farmhouse they call home for a long time. In fact, Derry has lived there since he was 10 years old. So it was devastating when the Schoharie Creek flooded during Hurricane Irene and destroyed the basement and first floor of their home. On the morning of August 28, 2011, the family gathered their dogs and photo albums and drove through the hurricane to Cheri’s mother’s home in the mountains. When they were allowed to return home, 2 days later they found everything covered in mud and shortly thereafter mold began to grow.When Cheri first saw the damage that their family home had sustained during the flooding she was overwhelmed, “I wanted to bulldoze the whole thing,” she recalled. But all that changed when volunteers began to arrive, strangers with little more than a pair of gloves and the desire to help. “The flood came at a time when I was down on people, everyone seemed unhappy… but I’ve had a reawakening of my faith in people and have learned that with perseverance and by sticking together, you can get through anything,” Mrs. Bland continued. The Blands first learned of Schoharie Recovery, Inc. (SRI) through Rev. Sherri Meyer-Veen, SALT Board Co-Chair. Initially they benefited from SRI’s reimbursement program, where flood impacted families within the Schoharie School District received reimbursement for rebuilding expenses up to $4,000. The funding helped, but there was still a lot of work to be done. Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) was formed to be a coordinating council or regional coalition in order to provide Interfaith and inter-agency resources, advocacy, healing, support, and recovery assistance to those affected by disaster. At first the Blands had a hard time accepting the fact that they needed more help. Independence and self-sufficiency are hard fast traits among members of our community. But the folks at SRI helped to change their minds. “Josh especially, helped us to feel that it was okay for us to get help and made it easier for us to accept,” Cheri remembered. In the end many groups worked together to ensure the Blands were able to return to a safe, sanitary and secure home, including Fields of Grace Outreach Rooms of Hope program, Schenectady County Community Action Program and Schoharie School District. But it was the efforts of Schoharie Recovery, Inc., SALT and national partner World Renew’s Disaster Response Services volunteers (a.k.a the Green Shirts) that has stayed in the hearts and minds of the Blands.
Volunteers coordinated through SRI helped to pour a new foundation, install sheet rock, flooring, cabinets and counter tops, and finish up with trim work.