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Story by: Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg - NY National Guard
Dated: Mon, Sep 5, 2011
LATHAM, NY (09/04/2011)(readMedia)-- Members of the New York National Guard Hundreds helped organize, equip, transport and lead hundreds of volunteers across the flood-stricken communities of Prattsville, Margaretville and Keene to help victims of the heavy rains and devastating floods following Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28.
The National Guard is operating reception stations for volunteers that arrived today from across the state and other parts of the country in support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s "Labor for your Neighbor" service initiative and the New York State Office of Emergency Management.
National Guard Soldiers helped process the volunteers, equip them with protective equipment, water and meal provided by regional Wal Mart stores and bring them to specific cleanup tasks in the flood ravaged communities of Prattsville, Margaretville and Keene.
Major corporations, including Home Depot, WalMart, and Verizon, are supporting the Governor’s "Labor for your Neighbor" Labor Day weekend service initiative by supplying volunteers with cleaning pails, mops, shovels, rakes, cleaning supplies, food, water, and other equipment.
But in the lead of the hundreds of volunteers stood Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard.
Groups of twelve were assigned to two National Guard Soldiers for missions planned across Greene, Delaware and Essex Counties.
"Our job is help keep all these volunteers safe, give them direction and get them to where help is needed most," said Sgt. 1st Class Frank Rizzi, from Company B of the 101st Enhanced Signal Battalion. The battalion is based in Yonkers, N.Y. with Soldiers across the lower Hudson Valley.
Rizzi helped in-brief the volunteers in Ashland, N.Y., where National Guard troops organized and transported the volunteers into Prattsville to boost cleanup efforts in buildings that saw flood waters in every building on the main street.
"You will get muddy," Rizzi told the group of volunteers as they prepared for their mission of clearing "muck" from key buildings in town and assisting homeowners. More than 200 volunteers were prepared by the Guardsmen and women for their day-long tour of duty. Dozens of other volunteers showed up individually to help the town.
Volunteers were supplied with protective equipment, food and water donated by WalMart and handed out by Paul Constable, an Assistant WalMart Store Manager from Glenmont and his wife Jennifer Constable, a WalMart Co-Manager from Hudson.
All of the regional stores contributed items and volunteers for the effort with the Guard, Paul Constable said.
"This is a great thing," said New York Army National Guard Capt. Alexander Martin, from the 101st Signal overseeing the reception station. "Our Soldiers are excited to be here. They’re engaged in this task and doing good things. That’s great for morale."
"The response to our ’Labor for Your Neighbor’ program has been overwhelming, but to me it is not surprising," Governor Cuomo said. "New Yorkers are always ready to lend a hand to help someone in need. In our darkest hours New Yorkers shine the brightest -- and the proof of that can be seen all across New York today."
"This just goes to show what we can all accomplish when a community comes together," Paul Constable said.
The initiative continues on Monday, Sep. 5 in all three communities.
Those who wish to contribute goods rather than funds should directly contact charitable organizations in their areas to determine which will accept such contributions and what items are most needed in the storm relief effort. United Way and the Disaster Relief Centers being set up by New York State with the Federal Emergency Management Agency do not accept non-cash contributions.
New Yorkers interested in volunteering or contributing can do so on the Governor’s website: www.governor.ny.gov/laborforyourneighbor.
For additional imagery about the New York National Guard storm response, visit our Flickr photostream at www.flickr.com/photos/nyng/