Nonprofits, faith-based groups helping flood victims get ready for winter

Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:34 PM EST
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BERLIN, Vt. (WCAX) - Four months after July’s devastating floods, Vermont state officials estimate there are about 100 households that still don’t have heat and other essential services this winter. But a network of volunteers is working to make sure nobody gets left behind.

“People that just do not have the resources or the skill to recover from their damages,” explained Larry Stoner, with the Mennonite Disaster Service, who arrived Wednesday from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to pitch in.

After receiving a briefing from local construction experts, they are preparing to help people assess and repair a variety of issues including heating, water, sewer, electric, and structural integrity.

The Mennonite group is part of the Hope Coalition, a group of more than a dozen nonprofit and faith-based organizations hoping to help. “Most of the volunteers are doing it out of the interest of serving those in need. A lof of it is the interest in serving God and serving those in need,” Stoner said.

A Berlin gym has been converted into a warehouse full of supplies to help homeowners continue with their recovery. “A lot of these folks have been for the last four months working eight hours a day at their normal job, coming home, getting a bite to eat, then working eight hours on their home,” said the coalition’s Dan Molind. “There’s a lot of different pieces to recovery and objectives in recovery, a lot of different ways things need to be approached. It’s almost a one-off every time.”

Vermont recently got a grant from FEMA for a new disaster case management program linking victims with experts to help them navigate rebuilding, moving, and long-term recovery. “They still really don’t have the resources to get back into their homes and living their lives again,” said Sue Minter with Capstone Community Action. She says caseworkers will then present those unmet needs to a board of officials that oversees the statewide $6 million disaster relief fund to try to draw additional cash.

The need for volunteers in the months and years ahead won’t stop. Minter says people should contact their town to learn about volunteer opportunities.