Editorial: Vermonters have risen to Irene’s challenge

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, the silver lining can be found in the hundreds of stories of neighbors helping neighbors, communities pulling together and finding new strength in those connections, and of the generous offers of help from all corners of the state and region.
Check the disaster aid hotlines and you’ll find some amazing accounts. Here’s one set of exchanges found on Vtresponse.com concerning a Aug. 30 plea for medical aid, baby formula and other supplies:
• “Pittsfield, Vt., needs some help. Anyone with a quad or an ATV. If you can bring supplies to Pittsfield by way of Chittenden snowmobile trail that would be amazing. There are babies that need formula. And people that need their meds. If anyone can help, please call Jason…”
• Jessie posts: on Sept. 1 at 9 p.m. “Hey, I’m free Saturday, September 3rd and have hard working hands and a good strong back! Please call 802-417-1795 and I will gladly come and lend a hand in whatever capacity you need! I’m in Rutland and am willing to travel!”
• Greg posts a question and offer for help on Sept. 1, at 9:18 p.m.: Are those trails passable with a 4-wheel drive truck? If so, I can probably make it out there. Please let me know!”
• Meagan from St. Albans offers help at 10:09 p.m.: “We’ll call on Sunday to check about Monday volunteer needs, Jason. We’re a couple from St. Albans looking for individuals that need assistance. We’ve got a pretty gnarly 4WD pick-up, 4×4 ATV with winch and yard cart, many cordless power tools, and would be happy to pick up meds, diapers, pet food, and whatever other specific needs people have.”
• Harold offers, too, the next morning: “Hi there. I have a 4×4 and could help haul whatever to wherever if you still need the assist.”
Over in Rochester, a community hit hard by flooding and one of 12 towns isolated for five days, they’ve had daily town meetings at 1 p.m. for storm and aid updates; who needs help the most; and other community tasks that have needed the most urgent attention.
Here’s an example of a recent post on the town’s Facebook page:
• “Rochester resident here. The concern shown for our town has been overwhelming and is deeply appreciated. At the most recent town meeting we were told there have been such huge donations of food that there is too much at this point. While that may not always be the case, it’s best if people call ahead to find out if food is still needed. That may also be the case with other towns. Donations of money may be more appropriate, if people are so inclined, to help families displaced. I don’t know the specifics about that, but the town office phone number is 767-3631 to discuss both that and the food issue. Many thanks, all.“
That post was followed by one from a Vergennes group wanting to help from Lionkevinrooney: “Thanks for this post. I am coordinating a donation drive for the Vergennes Lions Club and have wondered if there is too much of something being donated. What about shelter/housing supplies…such as blankets, toiletries, towels, pillows, tools, flash lights, batteries, etc?”
And so it goes, page after page, link after link… Vermonters reaching out to each other and forming new bonds of friendship. As one woman from Rochester said in an television interview Thursday night: She was really thrilled by the community response, the camaraderie, the spirit of unity and common cause. In a way, she said, “she wished it wouldn’t end,” but then, of course, it’s nice to have the power back on and road access beyond the village.

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