Your Neighbors

Where we live, the Vermont motto, "Freedom and Unity," is evident in daily life throughout the state. Though we may have radically opposing religious or political views, we all manage to work together like a large family. At no time in the last nearly 100 years was this more evident than when Tropical Storm Irene visited our state on August 28th, 2011.

The ground, already saturated from summer rains, couldn’t absorb the rainfall over a 24-hour period which exceeded seven inches in many parts of the state - devastating roads, buildings, and entire towns throughout the state including our beloved Rochester. The statistics are staggering: more than 500 miles of road and 200 bridges were damaged or destroyed; the estimated damage to Vermont farmers exceeded 10 million dollars in lost crops and land damage including enormous sediment deposits across their farmland; hundreds of businesses and families lost their entire livelihood to the swollen rivers, contaminated by fuel spills and debris from structures destroyed upriver. Due to extensive road damage, thirteen communities, including Rochester, were completely cut off from the rest of the state. By any measure, the size and scope of the damage from Irene surpassed every expectation. With damage visible in every direction, the residents of central Vermont also surpassed every expectation in the way our communities came together.

Under the bluebird skies that followed Irene, residents gathered at churches and town halls to assess the immediate and future needs of the community. Neighbors selflessly helped one another at a time of crisis where in other places individuals may have only seen a disaster as an opportunity to profit. The list of contributions is endless, from those who donated heavy equipment to repair roads to others who cooked and served meals to exhausted volunteers and displaced families. Local businesses donated their products, their facilities, their employees, and other resources; anything to help the people of the community who needed it most. Known for the unassuming quality of its people, Vermont does not have enough medals to recognize the heroes in our small towns.

Here in Rochester, it is nearly impossible to describe how the community rallied in the days and weeks that followed. Two funds established to assist the emergency need of community members raised over $115,000 with donations from local residents and other from as far away as Florida and California. Residents raised over $20,000 to rebuild the auditorium of the high school which suffered extensive damage. After the electric substation washed away Sunday afternoon leaving the entire community without power, State Police estimated it might take 3-6 months before electricity could be restored. When asked for a response, a spokesman for the utility replied "Come hell or high water, we'll have power back long before that. The worst case is weeks." CVPS restored power to Rochester in five days. Today, the scars of the flood are still visible as the rebuilding continues.

There are many axioms related to the strength of a community and its people. Rarely, however, is a town so thoroughly tested as we were during Irene. No one in the region was unaffected. No one stood by idle, watching the destruction or reconstruction when there was such overwhelming need. Those who were strangers before became friends and coworkers, all driven by their sense of duty and community to help. Whether you consider Vermont your home or a place to relax, what you gain from a property here is more than real estate, more than an investment. You are buying into a community.

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