October 2011 Issue
September 20, 2011

Retirees lend a hand to help flood victims

Author: Kara Smith
Source: NYSUT United
Caption: Karen Hoover takes a pledge during a Red Cross telethon. Hoover was among many retirees who helped those in need after flooding destroyed homes and businesses. Photo by Andrew Watson.

Carol Kurto had one thought after hearing about the devastating floods in many upstate communities caused by tropical storms Irene and Lee — how can I help? Like the many NYSUT retirees who rushed to help in ravaged areas, the Saratoga Springs Teachers Association retiree traveled to Schoharie to volunteer. Realizing she couldn't do the heavy work to clear mud and debris, Kurto looked for other ways to help.

She delivered donated food, water, cleaning materials and other supplies to outlying areas such as Central Bridge and Esperance. Kurto also reached out to the Schoharie County Community Action program to help organize and staff a storefront distribution center where community members could get donated clothes, food and personal products.

"A big part of our job was helping people cope," said Kurto, explaining that many residents were overwhelmed by the devastation. "Often what I heard was 'thank you for being there and for listening.'"

NYSUT retirees Patricia Kopchick, Karen Hoover and Carol Kuhr were among phone bank volunteers in early September at a telethon benefitting the American Red Cross' relief efforts.

"One of the good things about being retired is that you can volunteer," said Kopchick, a Shenendehowa TA retiree, who was pleased she could stay "as long as needed," beyond a single two-hour shift.

Volunteering for the telethon helped Hoover, a retiree from the Green Island TA, launch a new chapter in her life. "I couldn't think of a better, more positive way to spend my first September as a retiree," said Hoover, who also volunteers weekly at a soup kitchen. "I emailed my colleagues, wished them a good day, and came in to help."