By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — When storms Lee and Irene slammed upstate New York last year, outside help made a difference for a lot of people.
And now, having dodged Sandy’s worst, area residents are pitching in to help those who bore the brunt of the storm’s fury in New York City and other downstate areas.
“Today has just been a whirlwind of people stopping by with donations,” said Crystal Artis of Sidney.
Artis is working with Sue Darling of Oneonta to collect relief items. Darling is collecting items at the office of Century 21 Chesser Realty at 416 Chestnut St. in Oneonta and bringing them to Artis’ garage on Bridge Street in Sidney.
Their effort grew from an exchange on Facebook about supplies that people had accumulated in advance of Hurricane Sandy, fearing that it would do to the region what Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee did last year.
“We all went out, and we bought supplies in anticipation of the power outages and flooding” that didn’t happen this time, Darling said. “We might as well put them to good use.”
She suggested that people find someplace to donate the unused storm supplies.
“Sue had actually posted that morning on Facebook, just basically telling people, ‘You overbought. Find an organization and donate it,’” Artis said.
“I took it a step further and said, ‘Why wait for an organization to ask?’”
Artis offered to take the unused items and then find someone to take them.
The two women have had several offers to transport the goods to the New York City region, one from Frito-Lay, Artis said, and also from Birnie Bus Service in Oneonta, where Dave Hildebrand, a retired New York City police officer, is terminal manager.
“I reached out to Sue and saw that she was looking for somebody to do it (transport the collected items), so, with the approval of corporate, I offered our services to her,” he said.
Now, they’re working on where to deliver the relief supplies.
And they’re not the only people or organizations trying to help.
The State University College at Oneonta, through its Center for Social Responsibility and Community, is coordinating proposals for food and clothing drives and has set up an account for cash donations for storm relief. It’s also compiling lists of volunteers to help with cleanup efforts, according to an email from Nancy Drake, the center’s director. Drake did not return a call seeking comment by late Wednesday afternoon.
The American Red Cross’ Disaster Relief Fund also stands ready to accept cash donations, which enable it to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in need. Donors can call (800) REDCROSS or send contributions to the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution by visiting www.redcross.org.
In the aftermath of Irene and Lee, aid flowed into the area from the outside, and it is gratitude for that assistance that drives at least some of the people trying to provide aid to Sandy’s victims, Artis said.
“We’ve been through the flood twice,” Crysal Artis said, referring to Lee’s flood last year and flooding in 2006. “My parents have been through the flood twice.
“We were helped immensely, and that was the best feeling to know that somebody did it because they wanted to, not because they had to or somebody was forcing them to.”