Russ Cook, a Ticonderoga Elementary School teacher, and his family lost their Keene valley home to Tropical Storm Irene. Repairs are estimated to cost up to $60,000 and won’t be complete until late winter.
Russ Cook lost his home to Tropical Storm Irene, but the Ticonderoga Elementary School teacher feels fortunate.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “Events like this really bring out the best in people. That’s the lesson of Irene — we have wonderful friends and neighbors. I’m incredibly thankful for what’s been done for my family.”
Cook, who lives in Keene Valley with his wife, Angie, and two small children, awoke Aug. 28 to find his home was a virtual island because of flooding in the AuSable River and Johns Brook.
“At 1 p.m. I decided to pack up the family and leave,” Cook recalled. “I realized the water was going to come into the house and I didn’t want my kids to deal with that trauma and anxiety. We went to stay with a friend.”
Cook, who has taught kindergarten in Ticonderoga the last six years, returned to his home the next morning to find 3 feet of flood water, sludge and mud in his home.
“I wasn’t alone,” Cook said. “At least half the town was flooded. People were stunned — walking around, not knowing what to do or where to start.”
In short order, the people of Keene Valley rallied. Within a few hours about 40 people were helping Cook scrap up mud, tear out carpets, remove dry wall and pull out insulation.
“It brought the community together,” Cook said. “People who don’t cross paths very often were helping each other. The camaraderie was fantastic.”
Sadly for Cook, the more he cleaned up his home the more damage he discovered. His foundation was compromised and needed to be replaced. That meant finding a specialist to jack up the house while a new foundation can be placed. That specialist, busy with other damaged homes, won’t be able to work on the Cook house until December. That means final repairs to the home aren’t expected until late winter 2012.
Those repairs are estimated to cost up to $60,000.
The Cooks, who had no flood insurance, have completed applications for low interest emergency home loans through their local bank. The maximum possible loan is $15,000. Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance has been applied for and the Cooks recently received a check for $500. It was accompanied by a letter offering two options: either appeal the grant amount or apply for a low interest loan. They’ll be do both.
Friends and family are stepping up to help with donations. The Ticonderoga Parent-Teacher Association and the Ticonderoga Teachers Association have made cash contributions. Cook’s colleagues in Ticonderoga held a dinner Oct. 2 at Emerald’s Restaurant to raise money for the home re-construction. It included several raffles.
“Every dime donated will go to Russ and his family,” promised Kathy Marshall, a Ti teacher who helped organize the dinner.
Cook expressed his thanks by providing the entertainment. He joined Brad Hurlburt — the Back Porch Society — to play acoustic blues for those attending.
“The support, both financially and emotionally, has been big,” Cook said. “The teachers are always asking what they can do. Within the first week the PTA handed us a check for our basic needs. The (teacher union) sunshine committee has really helped my family. It’s made it a lot easier to come to work knowing so many people care.
“I have to give kudos to Kathy Marshall and Bridget McLaughlin for spearheading this (Ti) event,” he added. “It wouldn’t have been possible without them and Mark Wood at Ti Country Club (Emerald’s).”
About $5,600 has been donated to the Cooks.
But even with the out-pouring of help, the Cooks face serious challenges. With the donations and loans, they still need to find $30-40,000 to fully repair their home — and they still need housing until the repairs are complete.
Immediately after the flood the Cooks stayed two weeks with Dave and Cynthia Johnston. Cynthia Johnston is the Keene Central School superintendent. A second-home owner in Keene then offered use of his house to the Cook family through November. Come December, the Cooks will again be homeless.
“Things always work out,” Cook said of his housing plans come December. “Something will fall into place. You have to play with the hand you’ve been dealt. I won’t stress over it.”