Money donated to help the victims of ice jam flooding in a West Seneca neighborhood is beginning to reach the families whose homes were damaged.
About $44,000 worth of gift cards were scheduled to be distributed Monday to 56 individuals or families whose applications for assistance were vetted by the West Seneca Teachers Association Neighborhood Relief Committee.
Ranging from $250 to $1,000 per recipient, the cards can be used at grocery, department or home improvement stores. A supermarket also donated a bag of free groceries for each recipient.
“Everybody’s getting something,” said Brian Graham, assistant superintendent of student services for the West Seneca Central School District and a member of the relief committee. “I think the biggest request was the need for home improvements. A lot of those families had finished basements.”
Seventy homes in the Lexington Green neighborhood off Mineral Springs Road were damaged to varying degrees when Buffalo Creek flooded during a Jan. 11 warm-up.
Coincidentally, nearly $70,000 was donated afterward, in an effort coordinated by Graham and Joseph Cantafio, a teacher and president of the teachers union. Both also are active in community organizations.
“We knew that there would be a lot of schoolchildren in that community,” Graham said. It turned out that the homes of more than two dozen students, as well as a teacher, were damaged.
And Graham said they also knew there would be a lot of people and groups wanting to help; monetary donations were directed to the West Seneca Teachers Association Neighborhood Relief Fund via the association and a local bank branch.
Graham and Cantafio are members of the nine-person committee that reviewed the two-page applications for relief. Also serving on the committee are additional representatives of the school district, a local church, the Town Board, the Police Department, and a financial planning company.
Having met their objective of providing short-term relief, the committee will transfer the balance of the money donated to the West Seneca Responds Team, which will coordinate repair work.
That team is led by the Rev. John Klatt, pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Jan Tyson, office administrator of the Presbytery of Western New York. Both have experience in disaster response and assistance programs in which nonprofit organizations and church groups collaborate.
A community and home improvement fair for the affected residents will be held this month, according to Tyson. It will provide an opportunity for those homeowners to obtain information on the agencies they can turn to for help, and for the team to get them into their case management system.
Teams of volunteers will be brought in to help rebuild structures and foundations, Tyson said. The funds transferred by the relief committee will be used to buy building supplies and other items.
The relief fund committee’s work was short-term, said Tyson, who noted that recovery efforts continue long after people initially respond to disasters with donations.
“Then they tend to forget about it,” Tyson said, noting: “People still are recovering from (Hurricane) Katrina. We’re here for the long term.”