Local Funds Raised $4 Million For Irene Victims

02/13/12 7:34AM By Steve Zind
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(Host)  Getting financial help to rebuild after Irene is a long process for many Vermonters. 

But numerous local funds are credited with stepping up in the days right after the flood to help people get by until longer term help was available.  

Many of those funds are closing up shop now, and as they do, VPR's Steve Zind takes stock of what they accomplished.

(Zind) Some local funds were born out of the necessity of helping people hit by Irene, others were already in place but pivoted to make Irene part of their mission.

Some used Websites to collect donations, others went low-tech.  Customers of D & K Grocery in Jamaica dropped about $10,000 in change and small bills into a collection box there to help people in town. 

All of these local funds had one thing in common: They stepped into the breach within days of the storm and got money to the people who needed it before FEMA help arrived.

One day not long after Irene, Marion Abrams of Pittsfield spent the morning on the phone calling government agencies, looking for help repairing her damaged home.  She finally gave up in frustration.

(Abrams) "And that afternoon, a check came in the mail.  And it was 5 different groups in Killington had all gotten together, pooled their funds, figured out who in their neighboring communities had been affected by the flood and just sent them a check.  They just sent it!"

(Zind)  There were dozens of local Irene relief funds:  They helped individuals, families, farms and businesses in their area.  Some focused on just one town, others collected for a number of communities.

Julie Lineberger of Wilmington gives her daughter Jaslyn credit for spearheading the Deerfield Valley Human Web Fund which helped residents of 8 southern Vermont communities. 

The fund collected more than $208,000. Lineberger says the majority of the donations came from second home owners.

(Lineberger) "They really considered themselves to be part of the community, and they put their pocketbooks where their mouths were.  It was amazing.  I think we should never use the word conehead or flatlander again."

(Zind)  Local Irene relief funds were able to move quickly thanks both to the immediate outpouring of donations and because members of the volunteer committees that managed them personally knew the people who needed help. They didn't have to spend much time figuring out where the money should go.

The size of the funds varied: In Roxbury the total was $1,000 - collected at a local store. 

At the other end of the spectrum, The Mad River Valley Community Fund raised and distributed more than $1 million for Irene relief.  Karen Nevin who directs the fund says the effect is clear to see. 

(Nevin) "I think we made a difference.  Injecting a million dollars into our economy; into the homes so that the lights are back on in Moretown makes you feel really good, or that the restaurant on Bridge Street is open for business again, that's the tangible, visible result of what we've been able to do."

(Zind)  Some of the local funds created after Irene have finished their work and closed down.  Others are morphing into long term recovery efforts.

VPR contacted more than two dozen local funds for this story.  All told, they raised more than $4 million for Irene relief in their areas.  Many also provided food, clothing and other donated goods to Irene victims.  

For VPR News, I'm Steve Zind. 

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tropical_storm_irene jamaica killington wilmington cities
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