UPPER JAY - Volunteers were out in full force in this hamlet over Labor Day weekend, helping clean up the wreckage that Tropical Storm Irene left behind Aug. 28.
Members of the Red Cross, the National Guard, the Home Depot, churches, the governor's "Labor for your Neighbor" volunteer drive and other individuals came out to help those whose property sustained damage from the storm.
Flooding damaged several homes; the Wells Memorial Library, which lost a large number of books and archives; the Upper Jay fire station, whose back wall was pushed off its foundation; the Red Barn Antiques and Artisan Gallery, where the roof, porch and wiring need to be replaced; and the schoolhouse, where the basement is flood with a mixture of water and oil. Also, the remains of the former Land of Makebelieve theme park have been completely destroyed.
Volunteers help remove unsalvageable items from Upper Jay
resident Bob Denton’s house Sunday.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Margaret Moran)
"It's just heart-wrenching to see," said Elaine Gerber, of Saratoga Springs, who came out via Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Labor for Your Neighbor" service initiative.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency declared the state a disaster area on Aug. 31, and Essex, along with other counties, is now eligible for the Individual Assistance program.
A center for individuals to meet FEMA representatives is now open in the town of Jay Community Center gymnasium on 11 School Lane in AuSable Forks. It will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.
It will be there that residents of Essex County will be able to get information and questions answered about Irene-related recovery assistance. Also at the center, there will be representatives from the Small Business Administration who will be able to explain the low-interest loan packages available to both businesses and individuals.
"Before visiting the recovery centers, people seeking assistance are strongly urged to register with FEMA first," Federal Coordinating Officer Phillip Parr said in a FEMA press release. "Contacting state or local officials or registering with volunteer agencies does not count. You must register with FEMA in order to apply for help."
To register with FEMA, people can either call 1-800-621-3362 or register online at www.disasterassistance.gov.
Upper Jay resident Dan Monaco said he has already applied for FEMA assistance; in the meantime, he, his wife Martha and a handful of others were cleaning out the muck in his house on Sunday.
"It's actually been quite surprising that people from all over have come out to help," said John Benway, of Jay. "People who finished cleaning out their own damage here are coming out to help others."
Julie Robinson Robards, owner of the Red Barn Antiques and Artisan Gallery, said volunteers have been working hard over the past few days.
"They were like ants," she said. "They were like bees. It was just amazing."
Her son Robinson Robards said they are grateful for the help.
"They've been a blessing," he said. "They put us ahead at least a few weeks in cleaning. Complete strangers coming to help out and willing to help."
A hub for the volunteer effort has been at Brookside Motor Inn on Springfield Road. It's an place where volunteers and residents have been congregating, picking up donated food and beverages, sharing meals and sleeping.
"I just feel that I'm just offering a place, and they're using it, which is wonderful," said Marlene Prescott, owner of the Brookside Motor Inn.
The Brookside Motor Inn has been working with the hamlet's volunteer fire department to secure goods and services that people need in the area.
Both food and non-food items can be dropped off at the Jay Community Center in AuSable Forks. Monetary donations can be made payable to the newly created "Town of Jay Irene Relief Fund" and mailed to Town of Jay, P.O. Box 730, AuSable Forks, NY 12912, or dropped by the town supervisor's office in the Community Center.
"I'm grateful, no doubt about it," resident Bob Denton said in regard to people helping him in this time of need.