Funds still have money to aid Irene victims
By Jenna Pizzi
Vermont press Bureau | November 04,2011
Note: This article includes a change made to the original article to clarify that it is the overall Irene recovery, not the SBA/FEMA registration process that will be a 3- to 5-year process.
BARRE — Many people throughout Vermont, across the country and around the world have donated to charities that sprouted up to help the Vermont victims of Tropical Storm Irene's floodwaters.
The largest charitable organization in the state has been the Vermont Community Foundation, which has established multiple relief funds since the storm hit Aug. 28. Through the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund, the foundation has given a total of $604,500 in 122 grants to farmers statewide.
“Farmers were really struggling,” said Ryan Torres, philanthropic adviser for the foundation, who has been informing it about food systems in the state.
“I think farmers are just a key part of Vermont's working landscape,” said Torres. “It is something we need to keep thriving.”
After three rounds of grants, the fund still has more than $1.1 million available, and Torres said the foundation is still accepting donations. But because the number of applications has declined recently, Torres and the foundation are going to take a step back and reassess their model so they can better serve the agricultural community.
“The disaster relief efforts are ongoing,” said Torres. “This isn't going to end anytime soon.”
The foundation also hosts the Red Cross Response Fund, which provides support to Red Cross preparedness programs. The foundation has also been the fiscal agent for the Mobile Home Project Fund, which provides support for people who live in mobile home parks statewide.
And it is working with Phish's Waterwheel Foundation to help disburse money raised when the band had a benefit concert. It is still unknown how much was raised from the show, but it is expected to be more than $1 million.
The state-sponsored Vermont Disaster Relief Fund has raised about $1.8 million, according to Chris Graff, one of the gubernatorial appointees to the Vermont Long-Term Disaster Recovery Group, which will administers the fund.
“There are about 30 local funds, and there are other long-term recovery groups,” said Graff. “We are all working together to avoid duplication.”
Graff said the group members have utilized every resource available to help people who suffered damage from Irene, but have found it is still not enough. Individuals should register with both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration, said Graff.
Long term recovery could be a three- to five-year process, he added.
“It is a real marathon,” said Graff. “We are in this for the long haul.”
Graff said the group is still looking to raise money for the fund because the current amount is likely not enough to meet the need.
The Stratton Foundation has also raised money to try to bridge the gap between what FEMA will cover and what families still need.
“We are trying to solve the needs for residents to kind of restore quality of life,” said Al Rogers, a project manager for the foundation.
The foundation has raised nearly $400,000 since the storm and hopes to help individuals and families from eight properties in Londonderry, Wardsboro, Jamaica, South Londonderry and Weston to rebuild their homes at a minimal cost. The foundation has also purchased appliances and other necessities for those who suffered damage and lost personal property.
The Good Neighbor Fund in Waterbury has doled out about half of the total contributions it received, helping 103 homeowners who suffered storm damage in Waterbury, Duxbury and parts of Moretown.
Peter Plagge, the administrator of the fund, said it has been in existence for about 20 years but has grown tremendously since Irene devastated parts of downtown Waterbury.
Plagge said he spends time talking with people who have applied for help, assisting them in understanding how to seek further aid based on their income and budget. There is no minimum or maximum amount distributed to those who apply.
“It is nice to know that your neighbors are there,” said Plagge. “So people should request funds before the money runs out.”
How to get help
The following is a list of websites and phone numbers for charities aiding Tropical Storm Irene victims in Vermont. For more information on how to apply for assistance, please visit:
Vermont Disaster Relief Fund: vt211.org
Burr and Burton Academy's Tropical Storm Irene Relief Fund: burrburton.org, 802-549-8110
The Vermont Community Foundation: http://give.vtfloodresponse.org
Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund: http://give.vtfloodresponse.org
Intervale Farmers Emergency Fund: intervale.org, 802-660-0440
Vermont Irene Flood Relief Fund: vtirenefund.org, 802-255-3449
Stratton Foundation: strattonfoundation.org, 802-297-2096
Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund: waterburycast.wordpress.com, 802-244-1561
ReBuild Waterbury: rebuildwaterbury.org
Mad River Valley Community Fund: mrvcommunityfund.org, 802-496-3638