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Friday, August 29, 2014
Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
From left, Pastor Nancy Ryan, Nancy Wilder and Cyndi Tracy. All three were instrumental in assisting with volunteer efforts following the 2013 flood in Fort Plain.

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Fort Plain Flood Profiles: Nancy Ryan, Cyndi Tracy and Nancy Wilder

Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - Updated: 10:01 AM

-- In celebration of how far Fort Plain has come since the disastrous flood of 2013, the C-S-E has decided to profile five individuals who were instrumental in the recovery process. Profile candidates were selected with the input of Pastor Gail Adamoschek, although she and all of the candidates noted that their involvement was only a small part of the puzzle, as literally thousands of people assisted in ways too numerous to mention.

These articles aren't meant to leave anybody out, and it was always clear speaking with these individuals that the thousands of hours of (continuing) assistance from private citizens, government agencies, service organizations, corporations, small businesses, church and youth groups (to name a few) -- all from within and outside of the community -- is endlessly appreciated.

Fort Plain wouldn't be 95 percent recovered today if it weren't for every single person that assisted in some way, however large or small.

This week, the C-S-E profiles Nancy Ryan, Cyndi Tracy and Nancy Wilder. The profile series will continue in next week's edition.

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

Amongst the over-four-thousand volunteers that have assisted in Fort Plain and Minden in the aftermath of the June 28, 2013 flood were three women integral to the process, each donning various hats to make sure that short and longterm efforts ran as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Fort Plain Reformed Church Pastor Nancy Ryan said her first response following the flood was to check the church for damage and water. Though the church did take on water, which was pumped from the basement soon after the water receded, the church was lucky not to have taken on tainted sludge and mud.

Ryan's second response was to see what the Fort Plain Fire Department's needs were. A crew of volunteers and congregation members made food and drinks and delivered them to firemen and rescue workers, while Ryan's husband, Will, travelled out of town to purchase water, bleach and mops.

The Reformed Church literally opened their front doors almost immediately, turning it into a command center prior to the senior center's official designation as such. Though the command center moved down the street, the Reformed Church was utilized for about two seeks as a place for volunteers to check in and receive information on where help was required.

Ryan said, "by Monday afternoon, it was pretty clear we'd be a place for people to come if they needed help, and for volunteers to come if they needed help."

For two weeks, the church's kitchen was packed with food and water. Meals were provided to those in need every day from morning until 4 p.m. They also accepted and handed out cleaning and household items.

It was noted that many of the people helping at the church were Fort Plain Central School District administrators and faculty, who worked in rotating shifts to make food, answer phones and fill out paperwork, just to name a few of their tasks.

"Somewhere along the line, Cyndi [Tracy] showed up and has stayed ever since, which is wonderful," Ryan commented.

Tracy was in town on July 3 for Fourth on the Third, and immediately realized that she could be of service in the community.

"You saw a need and filled it," Ryan said to Tracy, who stated of the people of Fort Plain, "They needed help. That was just it." 

"I'm not rich, so I couldn't give a lot, but I could give my time."

Tracy said she kept an eye on flood recovery in Schoharie prior to the Fort Plain disaster because it affected numerous family members. As she witnessed that process, she thought that if something similar happened locally someday, volunteering her time to help would be something she'd like to do.

Asked how she became involved at the level she did, putting in thousands of hours, Tracy said, simply, "I'm a people person. I'm compassionate and I get to know people."

"It was a pay-it-forward thing," Tracy continued of her unquenchable desire to help, stating, "at some point in all our lives, somebody has given that helping hand."

Tracy said she watches "Pay-It-Forward" repeatedly to remind herself, "you have to step our of your comfort zone," which she did in many ways, one of the most significant being that she doesn't like large crowds, but at times had to help organize and assign work to a hundred volunteers at a time, meeting and speaking with each person individually.

Being taken out of her comfort zone, she said, was integral in promoting personal growth. 

"All the things I've learned, and all the people I've met," still astound Tracy, she said.

Another of Tracy's gifts came in handy during the recovery process -- her propensity to remember an endless amount of personal information. "I guess that's a talent -- or a curse -- one of the two," she joked, noting that she always remembered who lived where, what their kids' -- and even pets' -- names were, an impressive feat that this reporter witnessed repeatedly.

Tracy called volunteer and FPCSD educator Nancy Wilder her "right hand woman" through the months following the flood, explaining that Wilder's talents for physical organization came in incredibly handy.

"She wanted me to retire from teaching to be her secretary," joked Wilder of Tracy.

Wilder first became involved with the flood recovery in Fort Plain after reading a mass email requesting volunteers. Nancy, at the beginning, would spend three days to a full week volunteering her time, her primary role being organization.

During our meeting Monday, Tracy produced a huge box of documents that Wilder helped fill out and file, detailing information such as who volunteered, for how long, and where they worked, for example. She also documented the endless phone calls received.

Aside from documenting, Wilder said an important part of the process, for her and for victims, was to provide a sincere ear and a shoulder to cry on. "I listened to peoples' stories -- their desperation -- and we didn't really have the answers, but we tried to direct them to the right place that could provide answers to their questions," Wilder said.

"That was a big part of it too," said Ryan of the initial recovery period, noting that providing an outlet for flood victims to vent was necessary. "They needed to express their stories," she said, adding that volunteers out physically cleaning residences even took the time to sit and listen.

"Volunteers would come and eat and sit next to the very people they helped and they'd listen to their stories."

Wilder eventually went on to put in 1,200 volunteer hours during the recovery process, stating that she never had a second thought that she could be of service when she saw that her neighboring community was in trouble.

Having served the community as an educator for 25 years, she said that "most of the people affected were former students," who sometimes didn't feel comfortable talking to someone they didn't know, but felt at ease opening up to their warm, friendly former educator.

When asked what she attributed the extensive response of Fort Plain educators and faculty to, Wilder explained, "We don't just work 8 a.m.-3 p.m.. When our kids are affected, they're our kids and we want to help them. These were my students. This is my community. Even though I don't live here, I work here. It's not just a job -- it's a way of life. These are our families."

Though all three women agree that the flood was an unfortunate catalyst for the promotion of change and togetherness, they also agree that since June 28, 2013, there is a larger sense of connectivity on every level throughout Fort Plain.

Tracy said that when it rains, there is now a concerted effort on behalf of everybody to call one another, or send photographs and up-to-the-minute status updates regarding creek levels.

Ryan said that local churches have been working together more in terms of preparing for future crisis situations. The flood, she said, while awful, has been very effective in boosting community morale.

"There's a very real sense that 'we can do this.'"

The community members now know that if disaster strikes, they're not alone, and "that's really what it means to be a community," Ryan said.

She continued, "there's a sense of relationship between the organization and the individual that didn't exist before. This was a transformative deal -- not in the way I would plan it --  but as an outcrop of that, we've had some conversation and dialogue that's changed peoples' lives."

     

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