THE FOOD PANTRY and
THE ICE STORM DISASTER OF 1998
By Mary Ellen Keith
The youngsters were right! There would be no school today. The predicted ice storm was here. A call from a neighbor on the Tyler Road at 6 AM, checked to see if I had electric power. Yes I have power-oh no! Now I don't! The big pine tree on the corner just crashed to the ground taking the power lines with it.
Yes, this was the day of the 1998 Ice Storm Disaster. Immediately the facts of reality crossed my mind. No electricity means no heat, no water, no refrigeration; trees crisscross the roads; what about our neighbors?
What about the people of the entire Town of Franklin? My telephone is not totally dead yet, but very noisy, which allowed me to make calls for two days and then no telephone service for seven days. The battery powered radio and the local people stopping by with messages were the only communication we had for operating our pantry.
Within a few hours, a representative from the Red Cross stopped by my house. I had already contacted the radio station stating that food was available at the St. Paul's Food Pantry for people in the Towns of Franklin and St. Armand.
The Bloomingdale Fire Department had opened the firehouse as a shelter and was also serving food. Warren Fredenburgh, Frank Karl and Don Vorrath relayed the shelter's needs for food and transported the food from Vermontville pantry site to the Bloomingdale firehouse day after day.
I also contacted the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Latham, New York and discussed our situation. The food bank sent food via truck to Community Action Agency in Malone, NewYork. Dennis Muzzy and Pat Keith volunteered their time and trucks three times that week to transport food from Malone to the Bloomingdale shelter. Sue Muzzy was able to obtain food for the shelter from other resources. Dave Dekkers from AMC was there with his assistance and food. Paula Tuthill was in close contact with us relative to the needs of the Senior Citizens.
On the first of February 1998, we held a special distribution day for food, toilet articles, and numerous items. Mary Jo and Roger Rohe, Pat Keith, Frank Karl, and Dennis Muzzy again volunteered their time and trucks to bring supplies to the Franklin Town Hall for the day. This was an opportunity for people to supplement their loss of food and to restock their cupboards.
The pantry also served as a contact point for those in need of fuel, water, medical needs, etc. By the same token, people and agencies volunteering their services, fuel, stoves and food contacted the pantry as to their availability to help.
Yes, everyone in the area played an important role in our pantry. The prior food drives in the late fall by the Scouts, schools, BOCES, churches and post office was the Hand of God. The variety and an abundance of food helped us through the disaster.
We must not forget the work of the Bloomingdale Fire Department and its firemen, who went house to house in the Town of Franklin to assist the residents. Shirley O'Neil and her family were the "chief cooks and bottle washers" at the firehouse and church who actually fed and cared for the people under very difficult circumstances.
The St. Paul's Food Pantry is very thankful that we were able to help in the serving of 175 meals a day at the Bloomingdale Fire Department Shelter. Once again we are reminded that it takes a whole community of volunteers to make a pantry!