Berkshire Volunteers Honored For Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts
Debbie Storie collects her certificate from Paul Vallone.
DALTON, Mass. — Seven county residents were honored Thursday for their ongoing efforts in helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighters Association presented the group with certificates of appreciation at the Fire Station for not only bringing truckloads of donations down to Garritsen Beach and Breezy Point, N.Y., but also continuing to go there to help rebuild.
The group's efforts had started as separate fundraising efforts. Lanesborough firefighter Glen Storie and his wife, Beth, watched the reports of the hurricane pummeling small towns like their own and immediate jumped to action in soliciting donations. They contacted the firefighters in Breezy Point and took four trailers of donations there.
Meanwhile, Richmond firefighter Chris Porter and his girlfriend, Jessie Markham, started collecting donations, too, but didn't know where to send them. Another South County firefighter had just returned from Garritsen Beach and retold what he saw and what had missed major media coverage.
"Breezy Point got all the media coverage but Garritsen Beach got hit the worst," Porter said.
Porter reached out to firefighters there and took down two trailers of donations. When Storie had too many donations and Porter had not enough, the two teamed up.
Since then, two weekends every month, a small group of firefighters and their families and friends have been going down to help out.
"We've seen them so much that we're part of the community," said Al Peckham, who even went there on New Year's Eve to celebrate with the community and returned with tales of wild shenanigans. "We're the only crew in Garritsen Beach that goes down on a regular basis."
The core group consisting of the Stories, Porter, Markham, Peckham, Samantha Bruns and Debbie Storie have been there about eight times since the hurricane flooded the small community and continue to go twice a month.
"We haven't even done half of the houses," Markham said. While the first few trips mostly delivered donations, more recently they've been helping residential demolition.
A mixed group between seven and 10 of those volunteers and friends are there on a given weekend. Markham said the people are what keeps bringing them back.
"They are so appreciative down there and you don't get that everywhere," she said.
Markham expects the group will continue to go to Garritsen Beach throughout the summer to help residents rebuild. The Gerritsen Beach Fire Department collects residents' names and needs and instead of hiring a contractor, the Berkshire volunteers do the work for them.
"We help those who can't help themselves," Peckham said, adding a lot of the community is elderly.
While the cameras and celebrities have all left since the day when the homes of thousands of coastal residents were destroyed, the Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighters Association has been watching the rebuilding efforts.
"They deserve recognition. They went above and beyond to help people," said MCVFA Region 5 Vice President Paul Vallone. "We want to give them a thank you for all of their hard work."
Vallone contacted the association President Greg Dibrindisi with the idea and the recognition event finally came together Thursday.
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