A Flood of Support for Flood-Battered Communities

A Flood of SupportWhen flooding overwhelmed Broome County in 2006, we and other foundations pooled our resources to contribute $270,000 through United Way of Broome County for direct relief to individuals.

In 2011, after another flood disaster, United Way, WSKG and Broome County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (BCCOAD) coordinated a massive effort to collect and distribute relief to individuals. Observing their success, the Foundation’s Board decided to contribute in a different way.

In spring 2012, we used our entire spring round of competitive grant--$100,000 in all--to help nonprofit organizations and local governments affected by the floods in Broome, Tioga and Delaware Counties. We also distributed nearly $87,000 from our special funds for flood relief.

Owego’s Ti-Ahwaga Players, for example, lost the electrical panel in their theater and much of the stage lighting board, forcing the group to postpone its fall 2011 performance. “Losing that chunk of income was very challenging,” says Heather Cornell, president of the Ti-Ahwaga Players’ board. A $6,000 grant from the Community Foundation helped the Players meet payroll, pay bills and work toward the next show.

The Open Eye Theater in Margaretville had to cancel its fall and spring seasons while supporters rebuilt that devastated facility. Because the Foundation’s $7,500 grant helped make up for lost ticket sales, the Theater could get ready to reopen over Memorial Day weekend, 2012. “It made all the difference in the world,” says Aimee Brockway, the Theater’s board president and producing artistic director.

A $7,294 grant also replaced money lost when flood damage forced the Tioga County Council on the Arts to curtail important fundraising and membership activities. “The Community Foundation was really key to getting us up and running again,“ says Steve Cooper, the Council’s board president.

In Delaware County, a $15,000 Community Foundation grant allowed the Arkville Water District to replace a shed--destroyed in the flood--with a new building for its water pump, outside the flood plain. Another grant of $2,600 allowed the Town of Middletown (which includes Arkville) and several neighboring towns to provide flood plain management training to code enforcement officers, to avert repeat damage in future floods.

The municipalities need to lead the way in flood mitigation with both long- and short-range planning, says Marjorie Miller, Town of Middletown Supervisor. “It’s a good signal to the community that we’re taking responsibility for the people who live in our community.”

Grants can’t stop the forces of nature. But when nature wreaks havoc, grants supported by concerned neighbors help put communities back in business and prepare them for the future.

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