By Mark Boutwell, Executive Director
Yesterday I spoke with a newspaper reporter who asked me, “What’s your biggest concern for the seniors in your area after the flood?”
I said that I’m concerned there may still be folks out there that we don’t know about who have been cut off or affected by the flooding. Our case managers have shared their fears about the condition of couples living with dementia who may be stranded and disoriented. We know there are many folks living off the beaten path who may need additional assistance. I have heard instances of people who don’t know where to turn for help or who are having difficulty navigating the government’s disaster relief claims processes.
Another concern is that people who have had their homes flooded may not realize the danger of mold and mildew on their belongings or contaminated water soaking their walls. They may believe that once the muck is cleaned out, everything is fine. We need to make sure everyone knows the long-term risks of this devastation.
I told the reporter how heartening it has been to see the Vermont-Strong response of Meals on Wheels providers and delivery volunteers who have found alternative means for preparing and delivering meals, of town officials who have reached out to us with concerns about older citizens in their communities, of the many community organizations who have responded with direct assistance and supplies, and of the Senior Solutions staffers who immediately contacted all our clients and have joined with state and federal organizations to ensure that disaster victims receive the essential goods and services they need.
Equally heartening is the outpouring of financial contributions. Numerous disaster relief funds have been established and funding is flowing to organizations that have been directly impacted. Senior Solutions is using these funds to replace essential household equipment for victims, assist with other immediate financial needs due to loss of housing and income, and to replenish our stock of shelf-stable meals and food for pets in preparation for winter power outages and other unpredictable events.
As a vital community partner, we need to be certain that our procedures for mobilizing a community response are clear and comprehensive and so we are updating our emergency preparedness plan. In addition to responding directly to the needs of our clients, we will be clarifying how we deploy human and other resources to assist with broader regional needs.
I extend my gratitude to so many of the Senior Solutions staff who have stepped forward to help coordinate meal deliveries and to assist victims applying for assistance at FEMA sites. Our homes, businesses, and infrastructure may have taken a huge hit from this disaster, but the Vermont-Strong ethos of neighbors helping neighbors remains unshaken.