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Monday, October 20, 2014
Canajoharie, NY ,

Joshua Thomas
From left, front: Volunteer Coordinator Cyndi Tracy, volunteer Jennifer Leon, volunteer April Sharp. Back, from left: volunteer Jack Lewis, Volunteer Coordinator Bill Kinisky, Deputy Mayor/Trustee Loring Dutcher, volunteer Mike Stephen, Pastor Gail Adamoschek, Trustee Rodney Strait, Mayor Guy Barton, volunteer James Sharp and Robert Perry.

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Flood Profiles (Sharp/Kinisky) - 07/10/2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014 - Updated: 9:41 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.

Last week's coverage included profiles of Nancy Ryan, Cyndi Tracy and Nancy Wilder, while this week we focus on April Sharp and Bill Kinisky.

-- April Sharp

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

Lifelong area resident April Sharp was instrumental to Fort Plain's flood recovery not only in the days following the flood, after having arrived on June 29 to help a former neighbor, but for many months afterward, helping countless people with her dedicated volunteer efforts.

On June 29, April Sharp visited her devastated former neighbor's home on Reid St., arriving with the intention of rolling up her sleeves and doing whatever was necessary, including mucking and cleaning out the flooded property.

Sharp, having lived next door until 2011 prior to moving to Canajoharie, knew first hand how a flood could affect a family, as her home took in water during the 2006 incident.

Of that experience, Sharp said, "It was scary," noting that though she lived in an upstairs apartment and didn't endure nearly the level of damage the same house was struck with this time, she was forced to move out of her apartment for 3-4 months, back in with her parents, while the building was without hot water and electricity.

This time -- the two family home was completely destroyed, said Sharp, noting "It was very sad." Though she said that she felt some nostalgia upon seeing the aftermath of her old home's decimation, she said, "I was mostly concerned about the people who were living there now, but at the same time, thankful I had moved."

When she arrived in town to help her old neighbor start the long process of rebuilding (at this point, the former neighbor is ready to re-enter the home), she said, "I realized it was a lot worse than it was back in 2006."

It didn't take long for Sharp to recognize the level of need not only on Reid and Abbott streets, but throughout the village, which inspired her to respond. "A lot of people weren't knowing what to do," she said, explaining, "they didn't know what the next step was." 

Sharp encountered people too traumatized to re-enter their homes to begin cleaning — people too scared to see their life's accomplishments washed away or covered in a muddy layer of filth. Sharp said she realized that, as a neighbor just a village away, she now had the opportunity to step in and fill some of the roles that recent flood victims were incapable of filling themselves.

Sharp worked numerous days each week in Fort Plain through the fall, filling a variety of roles, cleaning houses on Reid and Abbott streets as well as downtown, then assisting at the volunteer booth, also organizing volunteers to retrieve supplies.

She also helped fellow-volunteer Cyndi Tracy figure out where need existed, then assigning volunteer tasks.

"It was a great experience working with the volunteers," said Sharp, explaining that there was a no-nonsense attitude amongst the group. "We got things done a lot faster because we all had to come to an agreement."

When asked what the largest challenge of the entire process was, Sharp said that there was no work that was too challenging, aside from carrying heavy buckets of mud up from basements in structures with compromised staircases.

The hardest part of the recovery, said Sharp, was "seeing people suffer."

Though Sharp noted that heavy rain still puts her on high alert, she wouldn't think twice about mobilizing immediately should a disaster strike again.

"Seeing people get back into their homes -- that was a great feeling," said Sharp, stating that even though the flood was overall negative, she was able to take an important lesson from the experience.

"You can't take things for granted," Sharp said.

-- Bill Kinisky

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

Voorheesville resident and Fort Plain flood recovery volunteer Bill Kinisky has been assisting with both short- and longterm disaster cleanup and rebuilding efforts for years now, earning a wealth of information during the extensive recovery process in Schoharie County following Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

Having witnessed numerous people from Fort Plain working hard to help the people of Schoharie, including Pastor Nancy Ryan, Pastor Gail Adamoschek, and members of their respective churches, Fort Plain Reformed Church and River of Jubilee, Kinisky said he didn't have a second thought about returning the favor.

"We went there to help them like they helped us," said Kinisky, who explained that after disaster struck Fort Plain on June 28, he'd bring dozens of volunteers (sometimes from far-away-places such as New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania) to the village three days a week to assist with recovery.

Having been involved with Schoharie efforts for two years, he built an extensive background, and was used to organizing groups of 75-100 volunteers. "We identified early on that it was going to be manageable," he said of Fort Plain's recovery -- though he was aware the road ahead would be long.

Kinisky spent about six months consistently in Fort Plain, forming "the core of the volunteer center" with Cyndi Tracy and April Sharp. "What we did in Schoharie worked," said Kinisky, "so we just took it and applied it in Fort Plain."

Kinisky said that he was more involved with the mucking and actual cleanup than he was with the rebuilding, noting that though the "demo" part of the process is his specialty, five tenants of the seven rebuild projects he worked on are back in their homes, with the two others actively working toward the goal of returning.

Although the scope of Schoharie's disaster was much larger -- 2,000 were affected in comparison to Fort Plain's 200 -- there were challenges in Fort Plain that weren't present there, the most significant being that there was no FEMA designated emergency space for individual homeowners. Since an emergency was never officially declared by President Barack Obama, there was anxiety early on "until Cuomo stepped in with the grant program."

Kinisky explained that because there was no official disaster designation, people were unable to get money for their homes or rentals, and weren't provided FEMA trailers to live in temporarily.

"That was a really hard thing, but the fact that Cuomo stepped in was really cool," said Kinisky.

"That gave people hope."

Kinisky pointed out that in Fort Plain, there were also factors similar to those in Schoharie, including the heightened sense of community. "The spirit of cooperation was great," he said, stating that though he learned a lot, on various levels, in Schoharie, the most important thing he learned was how to provide real, sincere words of encouragement.

"The biggest thing was hope -- looking a homeowner in the eye and telling them with certainty and confidence, 'we can get this done,'" and knowing it was true, because he had done it all once before.

The fact that he could help people to understand that, "from this disaster and from this mess, you can recover," was integral to the healing process, said Kinisky, who said his biggest reward for all his hours spent in Fort Plain was the fact that he could let flood victims know, "there are people that care about you and we're going to get this done."

Kinisky said that local officials, including Mayor Guy Barton and Code Enforcement Officer Barry Vickers, were also instrumental in helping the process move along expediently. He stated, "There was a really good spirit of cooperation amongst local officials." He noted that churches were also incredibly kind and giving throughout the recovery process.

"Neighbors helping neighbors -- that's how it's done," said Kinisky, adding, "There's a lot of discord and political nonsense in American, but when I see people coming together from all over the country … putting their political views aside to help people -- I have a different outlook on our country now."

     

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