November 2011 Issue
October 26, 2011

Locals in Action

Source: NYSUT United

Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Teachers Association

Members of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Teachers Association (shown above) traveled to Middleburgh to help union sisters and brothers who lost their homes in record-setting floods in late August. Joined by family members, friends and school rugby players, the BHBLTA members also helped repair Middleburgh High School through a program they established called Adopt A Classroom. Educators cleaned out basement-level classrooms and purchased gift cards so teachers could buy supplies. The local also collected supplies to help students.

New York State Lifeguard Corps

The ocean-service members of the New York State Lifeguard Corps are used to protecting swimmers in the waters of Long Island. But when Hurricane Irene advanced toward New York, the NYSLC snapped into action to safeguard the beaches.

Dozens of members of the local coordinated with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as Irene headed up the coast. The lifeguards moved their chairs to higher ground; secured or stowed objects at their stations that could be blown about in the storm; reinforced fence posts; and stored thousands of dollars of medical supplies and rescue equipment, including backboards and automated external defibrillators.

"No one knows how to secure a beach better than a lifeguard," said Bruce Meirowitz, president of the local, which is a chapter under the United University Professions.

The storm surge reached the parking lots at some beaches, but no one was injured and no beach equipment was damaged or lost.

The union's long history of protecting the beach environment, in addition to the beach-going public, is tied in with its mission of community service. This past summer, that effort included the "Train, Learn, Compete" (TLC) program. Lifeguard Corps members work public pools and lake beaches throughout the state, so opportunities for members to meet each other are limited. The ocean-service members developed the TLC program as a way for lifeguards to learn from each other.

"Any time you have lifeguards learning together and exchanging information on rescue techniques, the public is that much safer," Meirowitz said.

Mohonasen Teachers Association

The Mohonasen Teachers Association (MTA) is putting down roots in the community. The 300-member Schenectady County local has been helping to fund the new "Re-tree Rotterdam" project initiated by students. In the past two years, the group has planted honey locusts, river birch, maples and Japanese zelkova around the community, with the guidance of social studies teacher Fred Saccocio.

Maria Pacheco, MTA president, said students faithfully watered 50 donated saplings that were planted on the school campus. "We didn't lose any."

This past year, the group chose a town park to plant trees. "This required communication with the Town of Rotterdam. With their grateful approval, we planted four red sunset maple trees at a park close to our campus," Saccocio said. Along with continued support from the MTA, the group received a contribution from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"It has been fun and totally worthwhile to help beautify our campus and town for the next generation," said Saccocio.

"Our goal is to eventually plant trees in front of people's houses that they can take care of," Pacheco said.

Hudson Teachers Association

When the 180-member Hudson TA, located in Columbia County, wanted to help nearby flood victims in Greene County, they found a way to double their efforts. The HTA, led by Jack Beyer, voted to donate $1,000 through a charity set up by a supermarket owner in Cairo who matched all donations up to a $10,000 limit.

"We weren't hit as bad here, so we wanted to do something. They're our neighbors," said Beyer. "We just wanted to help. They have a crisis there."

The charity is set up to disburse money directly to flood victims, Beyer said, with no administrative costs.

Roads and bridges were washed out in the neighboring communities, Beyer said, and a lot of people lost homes in places like Cairo, Prattsville and Windham due to flooding from the Catskill and Schoharie creeks after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.