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Monthly Archives: September 2011

acts of kindness vs. acts of stupidity.

I was more than frustrated this past week when I walked out to my car to go to work and found my husband’s car broken into…again.

Car Break In.

We lived together in Long Island after I graduated college and not once were our cars touched. Since moving back to Rutland almost 5 years ago, our cars have been broken into 3 times. What is the most frustrating thing about this is there is still so much fall out from Irene still and people have the audacity to do stupid acts like this. It is very inconvenient and annoying. I have paid for 3 new car windows in the past 5 months. Yes, we have glass insurance. But paying the deductable every time frankly just sucks.

 

Yes, I am using this blog as a way to vent, essentially. Has anyone else come across people’s bad nature since Irene? I am astonished that people can be so greedy and selfish.

 

Thanks for listening to me vent!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

the long, dreary road ahead.

We are not out of the woods yet.

 

I had the opportunity to drive on Route 4 from Rutland right through Woodstock on the 16th of September. I felt several different emotions that day as I drove by the river.

 

It was shocking to see the damage the water had done in person. I have driven up and down Route 4 so many times throughout my life, always taking the view for granted. Now, looking over the embankment where the trees used to be, honestly brought tears to my eyes. But do you know what quickly made me smile? Watching the road crews work.

 

We have all driven through construction zones where the road is being worked on, or a bridge is being repaired. This was different. I am not saying that these road crews do not typically have a good work ethic. I am saying that they were carrying their emotion in a fashion that was motivating them; inspiring them, to use an artist’s touch with every placement of a piece of gravel or a section of guardrail. These workers are residents of the “island” communities, family members of those residents, friends of them…

 

I went to a conference in Manchester, New Hampshire that day. On my return, I not only noticed more devastating damage and loss, but I noticed that an incredibly long stretch of guardrail had been completed since I had driven by earlier. And although it was well past 6 pm, the crews were still working.

 

How amazing it is to think that they were able to build a road in less than 3 weeks where there was nothing but a hole previously.

 

It is great that we are able to travel on Route 4. It is great that residents are slowly being able to feel “free” to travel and go to work again. But I fear we have a long road ahead of us, and it is one we have to build as we move forward.

 

I was speaking to Kara from Evening Song Farm this weekend at the Downtown Farmer’s Market. Evening Song was hit hard by Irene (you can view pictures and video here: www.eveningsongcsa.com). Kara was obviously sad (how could she not be?) but she was surprisingly slightly upbeat. She felt and had experienced the embrace of our kind, generous community and was very moved. When I asked her what Restoring Rutland could do to help, she said they aren’t ready for volunteers yet. It wasn’t until this moment during our conversation that the reality hit me; we are going to be working for a long time. A lot of you are saying, “Duh!” to me right now, but think about your perspective of the situation. How hard were you directly affected by the storm? Did you volunteer for a few hours, or a week of time, to help out your neighbor or a local organization? People lost everything in the flood and can’t rebuild overnight.

 

What I am trying to say is, yes, I realized and knew that the road in front of us will be long and dreary. But what I am asking is for everyone to stay passionate. Stay selfless. Keep offering to help. Keep donating whatever you are able. But please, do not give up. Do not forget as roads are rebuilt and you can go back to your normal way of life, that Vermont still needs your help, and will continue to need help. Something as simple as offering to babysit your neighbors’ children to give them a night off from rebuilding can go a long way. Do what you can to help your fellow Vermonters as they have helped you in the past, and will surely help you in the future.

 

I don’t mean to be “preachy” in these posts, I just ask you to please continue to think about the destruction of Irene and the long road we need to work together to build.

 

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Vermont: Post-Irene

I am sitting at 34 Strongs Avenue, Restoring Rutland “HQ,” as we coordinators have so lovingly called it, and I can’t help but get a little sad. It is surreal for me to sit here and think about the whirlwind experience I have had in the past 14 days. I do not know if I fully understand what has happened here or how it happened.

 

The first day we were open, my friend Alexis Voutas was here even before I was, and when we received our first bag of donations, she looked at me and said, “What are we going to do with this stuff?” I looked at her and replied, “You know, I’m not sure. But I am really not worried about it.” She was a lot more worried than I was, and now, looking back over the week, I am surprised that everything worked out as well as it did. Everything fell into place. The minute we said that we were here to help, those who needed help and those who wanted to help, reached out to us. There was no emergency plan in place. There was not too much prior knowledge of who to call or what to do. The amazing thing is, we worked together with firefighters, towns, volunteers; all around amazing people and this marvelous movement occurred.

 

I have been working with the Creative Economy for over a year and a half. I have seen and heard many people talk about a lack of a sense of community from the smallest towns in our county, to the largest ones. And not just within a community, but a sense of community between these towns has also been criticized for missing. I have seen the struggles that each town is faced with and it sometimes surprises me that so many people in these areas either are not aware of or do not care about what is going on in their home town. Comparing “pre-Irene” Vermont to “post-Irene” Vermont is astounding. Vermont is very much a community oriented state, but I think over the past few years, we somehow lost ourselves and had been extremely lucky to not have experienced devastation this great. I am not trying to be cliché and say that a horrible event can drive people together to do what they normally would not. I am saying that Vermont needed to find our way back to who we are. Vermonters as individuals helping individuals has always been a way of life. We needed to get back to communities helping themselves and each other. Though I would never wish Irene or any further devastation on my wonderful state or country to occur again, what comes out of that devastation illustrates the character of those affected.

 

It is quite obvious by now that I am pro-Vermont and pro-community. I have seen what communities are capable of within themselves, and what they can offer to others. I hope that as roads get reconstructed, businesses open back up, and homes are rebuilt, that we do not lose this great sense of a statewide Vermont community. I so often say that I am thankful to be a Vermonter, and I truly believe that I always will be. I am so proud of my little Vermont, that we have proven to the nation; no, the world, that we are strong.

 

We are not easily scared.

We can overcome any obstacle.

We can work through our tears and continue to laugh.

We are strong.

We are Vermont strong.

 

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Ode to the Sabataso Family.

In my post the other day, I spoke about how Vermonters are raised to give a hand without being asked. If anyone in Rutland County exemplifies this notion, it is the Sabataso family.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Sabatasos (some of you avid Express readers already have some insight.) John and Jeri have four wonderful kids; Janice, Jill, Jay, and Jim. All four still live in the area, or live in the area again. If you see even a few of them together, you can tell how close knit of a family they are.

Jim, the youngest of the clan, many of you know as a writer for the Herald. Volunteerism and community certainly run through his veins, currently serving as the Vice President of the Creative Economy board; Director for the non-profit group, Sustainable Rutland; as well as serving on the boards of many other non-profits and committees in Rutland County. He does everything on his plate with an integrity and efficiency that is hard not to admire. Many will hear me refer to him as “the other half of my brain,” because I tend to pick his brain and run ideas by him quite frequently. I am happy to call him one of my closest friends.

As I am sure most locals know, his family owns The Palms Restaurant on Strongs Avenue. His parents, John and Jeri, are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. When I was contemplating the idea of the donation site for Restoring Rutland, I immediately sought Jim out; as he is the “other half of my brain,” and I knew he would have an idea for a space. He suggested the location at 34 Strongs Avenue. I told him that I did not want to impose. He said, “Let me ask,” and about two minutes later, I had been given permission to use the storefront.

That first day, John and Jeri continuously checked on what was happening and if myself or my friend, Alexis Voutas (another amazing friend who stepped up and helped out without being asked), needed anything. They brought us food, they brought us drinks, they even came over and helped us organize, sort, and move boxes. They let us use their trash and cardboard dumpsters. The same was true the next day, and the next. One night, Jim and I were working late at Restoring Rutland. We had been overwhelmed with donations, and were sorting for a long time past our originally scheduled departure time. John and Jeri walked right in and started to sort. Now, this is after having cooked food for multiple days for CVPS workers, making donations themselves, letting us use the building space, and after Jeri worrying that I was going to turn into a piece of pizza and making sure I ate something else.

I have to mention the oldest three kids, as well,; Jill, Janice, and Jay. The girls have made numerous donations and always check on the volunteers to see how we are doing. Their support has been amazing. Jay, has gone above and beyond for Restoring Rutland. He has made sure that timely and urgent supplies get to the Chittenden Fire Department. He has made numerous calls to ensure important medical supplies get to the “island” communities. He has completely transcended any expectations to make sure that Restoring Rutland ran smoothly and that needed supplies made it to those citizens.

Yes, their son Jim stepped up immediately to help me out with Restoring Rutland. But I know that even if Jim weren’t involved as much as he is, or if he weren’t involved in Restoring Rutland at all, his parents would still be the generous, caring, inspiring people that they are. I encourage anyone who donated or helped out with Restoring Rutland, to thank John and Jeri. Not only for the generosity they have demonstrated, but also for raising such an amazing family. Thank the Sabatasos when you see them.

So thank you, Sabatasos. For all you have done, and will surely continue to do, for your community.

This blog post originally appeared on the Vermont Today blog.

 

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I don’t know how we got here.

Last Saturday night, I went over to a friend’s house. We were watching the national news coverage of Hurricane Irene, drinking “Hurricanes” (a rum based cocktail). It was amazing seeing New York City empty.  Although I knew people in the evacuation zone in NYC, and that some of them actually left NYC to come to Vermont fleeing the impending storm, I never could have imagined what my Sunday was going to be like.

Sunday, I worked my part-time job, and then drove through a bit of standing water on Route 7 by the Cumberland Farms to get home. I knew it was more water than normally stands there in the rain, but my mind could not even begin to imagine what was happening both in Rutland and out.

My normal Sunday routine is to do laundry, relax, and maybe catch up on what has taped on my DVR. I had saved some bananas out to make bread, too, but thought that I would sit down and check on my Facebook newsfeed first. My life will never be the same.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, that’s a little dramatic.”  But is it really? I was not prepared for the images people were posting or that my husband, being on the road around Vermont at the time, was texting to me. They were completely unreal (and frankly, still are). I looked out my living room window and saw the street filling up with water from Tenney Brook. I looked out a window on the other side of the house, and the same thing; water from another stream in the road. I didn’t know what to do. So I went back on Facebook. I started asking questions and looking at people’s walls and pictures, trying to figure out what was happening. I started to hear more people outside my house; they were stuck on one side of a bridge or another. I began to think that I should leave, and packed a quick suitcase, and called a friend in Mendon to let her know I was coming. I walked outside, and saw that the water, which just fifteen to twenty minutes ago was not too deep, was now at least knee high. I ran back inside and plopped down in the middle of the living room floor. I began to get scared a little bit; I had power, but I was alone, there was water everywhere outside of my house, and I had no idea if my husband was going to be able to make it home. Needing to focus my energy on something else, I started to make that banana bread.

My in-laws and close friends on the other side of town kept calling me and offering me rides in cars, on their backs, and in their kayaks to get out of my house. I felt awful asking someone to “rescue” me when I felt fine, I just didn’t want to be alone. Finally, a friend didn’t really give me a choice as to whether I was leaving my house or not, but told me I needed to bring the banana bread. I grabbed the bread out of the oven, even though it still needed about 10 minutes more to bake, grabbed my bag, and waded through water that was over my knees to his car.

When I returned back to my house the next morning at 7 am, I was exhausted, but jumped right back on Facebook to see what was going on. Learning that many towns in Vermont had become “island communities,” I was trying to look for a way I could do something, anything, that would be helpful to them. I posted queries on Facebook and looked up websites and…everything was just so frantic that day. I finally stumbled upon a website www.vtresponse.com, and suddenly, I was the point person for volunteer efforts in Rutland. I did a little more Facebook digging and discovered the “Restoring Rutland” event page. I contacted the creator because I had an additional idea for helping out.

Being a Rutland resident, I consider myself a city resident, a county resident, and a state resident. I knew there were several communities around the county that were now stranded with no way of knowing how long it would be for them to get help. I saw friends asking for diapers, food, baby formula, pet supplies, and many other materials. How would they get these things? I wanted to help them out. I needed to help them out.

Restoring Rutland started out as a two-day event for volunteers to get together and help clean up the city. Speaking with the creator of the event, Aaron Kraus, I told him what I wanted to do and we figured out projects would be best helped if we worked together. The rest is history.

Restoring Rutland went from a little drop off spot collecting donations to the center of Rutland county for collecting supplies to go over the “hole” to the other side of the mountain. I am amazed and humbled by the generosity of not only our direct Rutland city community, or even the county, or even the state, but the entire country. We have had supplies shipped to us from all over the country, people driving from all over New England, even if that means there are many extra hours added to their trip due to road washouts. It is amazing what a few friends can do in a few hours.

I guess I do know how we got here. We got here being raised in a state where you help your neighbor. Where you lend a hand without being asked. You don’t need to solicit donations; Vermonters are there ready to give everything they can live without. I knew Vermont was the greatest state in the nation, and I already was thankful for my parents moving here when I was 3 months old, and raising me as a Vermonter, but I am even prouder to call myself a Vermonter now.

This blog post originally appeared on the Vermont Today blog as well as the Friday, September 9, 2011 edition of the Rutland Herald.

 

 

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