One of the nine long-term recovery groups formed to help residents hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene is getting ready to close its doors by the end of the month. The group Rebuild Waterbury is expected to be the first recovery group to finish its work.
Rebuild Waterbury formed early and fund-raised quickly, and those involved in the effort say the swift response was key to the group’s success. It received a $250,000 matching grant from the Stiller Family Foundation, which is affiliated with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. And the town of Waterbury offered to loan the group $100,000, although the group never needed to borrow it. Another reason Rebuild Waterbury may have finished quickly is that unlike other parts of the state the damage was concentrated in a few areas and was highly visible. Theresa Wood, who serves both as the Chair of the Steering Committee for Rebuild Waterbury and its case-manager said hiring paid staff was also key.
"We needed consistency," said Wood. "We needed people who were going to be there, who it was their job to make sure things got done."
The group also relied on volunteers who put in nearly 10,000 hours of free labor. The group’s mission was to make sure residents had safe housing.
"We’ve installed kitchens and bathrooms, flooring, trim, done drainage work at people’s homes," said Wood. "Everything from soup to nuts."
Wood says Rebuild Waterbury made up the difference when FEMA and insurance didn’t cover everything. But the homeowner also helped pay for the work.
"Even for the people who have the most meager of income we did require that they make some personal contribution towards their recovery," said Wood. "So that was key and it’s key in the recovery work. That people feel empowered-that they are participating in their own recovery."
The other eight long-term recovery groups remain active. As does the state-wide Vermont Long-Term Recovery Group. There are at least 270 re-building projects still in process.