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How to help with flood recovery in Vermont

One person helps hold furniture outdoors while another sprays it with a hose
Mike Dougherty
/
Vermont Public
Volunteer Sophie Feldman and building owner Vince Illuzzi clean furniture outside 138 Main Street in downtown Montpelier on Sunday.

Volunteer efforts are underway across Vermont to help with relief, cleaning and recovery after the devastating July floods.

From informal arrangements of neighbors helping neighbors, to large-scale efforts to organize help across the state, there are many ways to get involved.

Two themes emerged from volunteer organizers in a July 17 conversation onVermont Edition: Listen to what's needed on the ground. And when you do show up, be prepared and stay safe.

Kiah Morris, who with Wendy Rice started the VT Flooding 2023 Response and Recovery Mutual Aid group on Facebook, noted that some help may only cause more chaos if the community isn't ready.

For example, some towns need a lot of physical cleanup help, and aren't prepared for many donations. Other places need donations more. Some communities may need cleaning supplies or personal protective equipment (PPE), whereas others will benefit more from clothes, food or water. Make sure to take items to the right places, too, to help efforts as opposed to making them messier.

If you're volunteering, it's important to keep yourself safe. While water is receding in many areas, the risk of unsafe conditions is still there — from mold or potential illnesses carried on water damaged items to heat and dehydration, or even burnout.

Peter Walke has been organizing relief efforts in Montpelier for the past week through Montpelier Alive. For people coming to shovel mud and clean out businesses, they're providing safety precautions like PPE and handwashing stations to make it safer for volunteers to participate.

Walke said to show up to volunteer sites prepared. Bringing the right shoes — like boots instead of flip flops — and a change of clothes can make a big difference. Knowing your own physical limitations, and being mindful of other factors like heat, is important, too.

Physical labor isn't the only way to help. If you aren't able to give through physical labor, especially in a safe way, there may be ways to organize resources or volunteer from home.

Statewide volunteer signup

All Vermonters can sign up to help at vermont.gov/volunteer. Volunteers will be given specific instructions about where and when they can participate.

If you signed up to volunteer through the state website but haven't yet been deployed, Agency of Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson said to be patient.

"This recovery is going to take a long time, and that we will need Vermonters who are interested in volunteering for the long haul," Samuelson said at a July 17 media briefing. "Right now may not be that moment — but two weeks from now, three weeks from now. That's when the need for volunteers will be the most, and it's often when the — when folks who have not been affected's interest wanes."

Volunteer signup for BIPOC Vermonters

The Vermont Professionals of Color Network is welcoming volunteers to provide mutual aid to Vermonters who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Vermonters, both BIPOC and not, are welcomed to sign up using this form. There you'll be asked about the kind of assistance you can provide, from money and time to food and language interpretation.

Volunteer signups in Barre, Montpelier, Waterbury and Cabot

Barre has a volunteer signup form on its website and has already connected those volunteers with individual homeowners who requested help as well as overall debris cleanup.

A person uses a yellow bucket to clean flood muck and water
Mike Dougherty
/
Vermont Public
Lindsay Graff cleans up a lot on Langdon Street in Montpelier on Wednesday morning.

For those who want to help specifically in Montpelier, the group Montpelier Alive has created a volunteer signup form.

In Waterbury, town officials are directing potential volunteers to sign up on this form.

There's also a signup form for volunteering in Cabot.

All Vermonters should stay away from damaged and flooded areas. Never drive across a flooded road or around a road closure sign, said Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison.

Monetary donations

The following funds are collecting donations for statewide disaster relief:

The Red Cross is not accepting donations of items. "As much as we understand people's willingness and just need to help, donations of goods kind of detract from our ability to serve individuals because they have to be sorted," said Jennifer Costa of the American Red Cross of Northern New England.
Be aware that phony charity scams can crop up during disaster relief efforts. "It is, unfortunately, a perfect time for scammers to take advantage of the moment and separate you from your money," said Attorney General Charity Clark.

If you are approached for donations, you can take the time to vet the charity online or call a reputable phone number for the organization before making a donation. "That can be an effective way of protecting yourself and making sure that you're investing and contributing to what you think you're contributing to," Clark said.

If you have a concern, or want to report a scam, contact Vermont's Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424. The Vermont Attorney General also offers scam alerts to keep the public informed.

Donate blood

The Red Cross had already been trying to prevent a summer blood shortage, and they expect Vermont's floods to mean they're unable to collect approximately 500 pints of blood. But the need for blood doesn't stop, said the Red Cross' Costa.

If you're able to give blood, consider signing up at redcross.org.

This article will be updated as Vermont's needs, donation drives and volunteer opportunities evolve.

Have questions, comments or tips?Send us a message.

Flood recovery resources

      Updated: July 21, 2023 at 10:59 AM EDT
      This page has been updated to include the Vermont Professionals of Color Network's efforts to recruit volunteers to provide mutual aid to BIPOC Vermonters.

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