Irene Fundraising Efforts Spring Up Across State

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(Host) Dozens of local and statewide fundraising efforts have sprung up throughout Vermont in the past two weeks to help homeowners, businesses and farmers recover from damages caused by Tropical Storm Irene.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel takes a look at a few of them.

(Kinzel) Organizers of the Vermont Irene Flood Fund gathered on South Main Street in Waterbury to announce the creation of an effort that’s designed to help small businesses throughout the state.

The group stood in front of a small car repair business that suffered tremendous flood damage. The Fund hopes to raise a quarter of a million dollars and they’re halfway to meeting this goal.

Spokesperson Hal Cohen is encouraging businesses to apply for as much as a $5,000 grant.

(Cohen) "The whole community does better when businesses do better when businesses are open when businesses are serving their customers and when businesses are employing workers. So please apply today for this grant."

(Kinzel) Albert Caron owns the Waterbury Service Center that was knocked out of business by the flood.  He says a $5,000 grant would allow him to buy a new tire changing machine and help put him back in business.

(Caron) "That’s one of our goals here to be back up and running and hopefully within 3 or 4 weeks we’ll be back in business and not have to worry about wondering where our next pay check is going to come from."

(Kinzel) Some of the fundraisers are taking place out of state. On Tuesday night, there’s an event in New York City to benefit the Stratton Foundation Flood Relief Fund.

Stratton Rep. Oliver Olsen says the event has been organized by a group of second home owners to help Vermont residents in the area.

(Olsen) "Because many of these homeowners do not have flood insurance and in the instances where there’s a catastrophic loss $30,000 from FEMA is just not going to cut it and we’re going to have to bridge that gap with private fundraising."

(Kinzel) Stuart Comstock Gay is the director of the Vermont Community Foundation. He says people who want to make a financial contribution should consider how they’d like their money to be spent – either in a general recovery fund or one that’s more focused.

(Comstock Gay) "For many people they say look I really care about Rochester or Waterbury or Chester or you name the town I want to support that particular place or I want to help rebuild Vermont’s covered bridges or I want support artists and there are funds really addressing any one of those things if anybody really wants to have a focused gift."

(Kinzel) And Comstock Gay says the response in Vermont, in terms of local volunteer help and financial assistance, has been overwhelming.

(Comstock Gay) "It’s really quite stunning and I think my colleagues in other states that have similar problems are impressed as they look at what’s going on here."

(Kinzel) Back in Waterbury, Service Center owner Albert Caron had this pledge.

(Caron) "And guarantee Waterbury itself, a little community, we will be back we won’t be held down too long."

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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