Vermont Volunteers Prepare to Pitch In for Flood Victims | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Vermont Volunteers Prepare to Pitch In for Flood Victims


Published July 11, 2023 at 2:43 p.m.
Updated July 26, 2023 at 2:11 p.m.

Crews along flooded Route 103 in Chester - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Crews along flooded Route 103 in Chester
Even before the rain relented and flood waters started to recede, Vermonters began organizing to help their neighbors who were hit by the historic deluge.

"VT Flooding 2023 Response and Recovery Mutual Aid," a Facebook group Wendy Rice created on Monday night, had more than 2,500 members by midday on Tuesday.

On the Facebook page, Rice links to a Google Doc with information about road closures, emergency shelters and state agencies. The document also includes a list of dozens of local mutual aid groups.

Rice is no stranger to natural-disaster response efforts: From 2011 to 2015, she worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where she assisted with recovery efforts during Tropical Storm Irene. In an interview, Rice said she envisions the Facebook group as "
a central hub" where people can share resources and information. She undertook similar organizing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rice said one way people can be helpful in the early aftermath of the storm is to add local resources to the Google Doc. She said those who want to volunteer to help should look for coordinated efforts on their local Front Porch Forum or town website, rather than trying to do something independently, which could get in the way of the state's emergency response. 

At a press briefing about the floods on Tuesday morning, Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison also plugged a state website,, where Vermonters can register to volunteer.

"For now, please focus your volunteer efforts on the hyperlocal level," Morrison said. "Check on your neighbors and the most vulnerable in your neighborhood."

In the hard-hit Capital City, the Montpelier Food Pantry was closed due to flooding in the area, but a post on its Facebook page directed people to community drop-in center Another Way for meals.

 Another Way's executive director Ken Russell said the nonprofit would be serving pot roast, carrots, gumbo and pasta. They were also seeking donations of dry clothes and socks.

The Civic Standard, a nonprofit community organization in Hardwick, was also seeking donations of socks and towels and was helping to coordinate volunteers for local flood relief efforts.

Local businesses and churches also lined up to help.

Joseph Pensak, co-owner of the newly opened Phoenix Gallery and Music Hall in Waterbury Village, offered the use of the gallery's dry basement to anyone in town in need of storage space. In Ludlow, Filipino restaurant Gamebird posted on Facebook offering free groceries, sandwiches and chicken. On Tuesday, the Marshfield Village Store planned to give out free barbecue, and Barre's Enough Ministries was preparing a meal to serve hundreds in its auditorium. 

Katie Farineau of Burlington, who worked for four years with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative researching best practices for disaster response, said it's often people's first impulse to donate "stuff" in response to
a natural disaster. But she said oftentimes those items are "mismatched with the needs of the people" and can create more work for those who have to sort through it all.

Farineau recommended that people do research into credible local organizations that are already doing good work in their communities and consider donating money rather than goods as a way to give affected communities more flexibility and agency in meeting their needs.
To that end, the Vermont Community Foundation announced on Tuesday the creation of the VT Flood Response & Recovery Fund 2023 to coordinate and distribute support to hard-hit communities. The foundation also recommended other organizations to donate to, including the American Red Cross of Northern New England; BROC Community Action; Capstone Community Action; Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity; Northeast Kingdom Community Action; and Southeastern Vermont Community Action.

Rice, the creator of the mutual aid Facebook page, said that in coming days and weeks, more opportunities to help with the "great need and great damage" wrought by the flooding will certainly present themselves.

"Vermonters in particular really want to show up and be there for their communities," Rice said. "It's really part of our culture."

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