As Hurricane Irene crawled up the coast, residents of the Eastern Seaboard braced themselves for a wallop. When the storm’s path shifted to the west, residents of the East End breathed a collective sigh of relief as the storm’s effects were minimized.
Areas of upstate New York, however, were not so lucky—residents found themselves in the midst of a deluge. Tropical Storm Lee then dealt a double-whammy.
With help from the community, David Falkowski of Sag Harbor and Richard Doyle of Bridgehampton have been raising money and supplies for the flood-ravaged upstate communities, whose residents are still in desperate need.
“Nobody knows this is still going on,” said Mr. Falkowski, who owns and operates an organic farm on Butter Lane. While branches have been cleared away and power lines have been restored here, the most basic necessities have been extinguished in small towns throughout the Catskill Mountains.
“Bridges and roads were wiped away,” said Mr. Doyle, who is a real estate agent at Prudential Douglas Elliman. “Churches were going down the rivers, and nearly 200 families were displaced.”
According to Mr. Falkowski, whose father, John, lives in Schoharie County, the record-shattering flood destroyed many farms, and hundreds of homes have been condemned or burned down by electrical fires. “These small towns with families who are clean-living, hard-working people have just been devastated,” Mr. Falkowski said.
When Mr. Falkowski received news of the flood from his father, he and his sister’s boyfriend, Mr. Doyle, knew they had to act.
Through word of mouth, phone calls, e-mails and the help of various media outlets, Tuesday, September 6, began another type of flood—an outpouring of support through donations of every kind. Filling three 160-square-foot cargo bins and a 30-foot trailer with non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, clothes, furniture, appliances, housewares and electronics, the effort took off far beyond what they expected.
“I’m impressed,” Mr. Falkowski said, “in the nature of charity. It’s never enough, but we’re getting close to accomplishing some of our goals.”
While their first response was to provide basic necessities, the duo has asked the community to contribute whatever they can to start rebuilding these small-town communities. “At the end of the day, this comes down to farming,” Mr. Falkowski said. “Their fall crop is just not salvageable—these are the people who feed us.”
Which so much at stake, Mr. Falkowski and Mr. Doyle felt they had no choice but pull all their resources together to provide some relief.
On Friday, September 9, with just three days of planning, Bay Burger agreed to host a live music benefit with guitarist Gregory Morgan. Local artists also donated their artwork for a silent auction. “We made $3,300 just that night—and beer sales were good for Bay Burger,” Mr. Falkowski said with a laugh.
The relief effort as a whole has collected almost $20,000 from local businesses, churches and private individuals.
Brown Harris Stevens Real Estate donated $2,000. “We are fortunate to live where we do and fortunate that the storm did not cause greater damage here,” said Ed Reale, senior managing director of the real estate company. “Based upon the accounts of the several respected families from our area who now live upstate, we, like many others, were moved to contribute.”
Not only did the company donate money, but many of its agents individually collected and donated funds, clothes and food to the effort. Another real estate company, Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, contributed $3,000 as well.
“We’re philanthropic on a lot of levels, but because of the magnitude of the problems upstate and the fact that we have people we know in common, when the phone rings, you gotta help,” said Paul Brennan, the Hamptons regional manager for the company. John Falkowski, Mr. Falkowski’s father, built Mr. Brennan’s home in Bridgehampton and has known him for more than 40 years. “People are in trouble up there. We dodged the bullet, and they got it,” he said.
Some groups are taking a hands-on approach to ease the wounds inflicted by the floods. Boy Scout Troop 455 of Sag Harbor held a food drive at the Bridgehampton King Kullen on Sunday. From 9 a.m. until the late afternoon, the boys and their parents collected food donations of all kinds, sorted and packed them away. In addition to groceries, the boys accepted monetary donations. “People have been giving donations of $5, $10 or $100,” Scout Master Chris Cook said on Sunday. By the end of the day, the Scouts had raised nearly $1,000 and, with a list in hand, went grocery shopping for the upstate victims.