This is what’s left of Bruce and Amy Cleveland’s house in Bakers Mills.
A few days before Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast, devastating homes and businesses in several states, there was a disaster in the tiny Adirondack hamlet of Bakers Mills, just south of North Creek.
The community response to both crises was uplifting, and it left us thankful for living in an Adirondack small town.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 27, Bruce and Amy Cleveland’s house in Bakers Mills was razed by a fire. By some miracle, they had left home an hour earlier to go to the Glens Falls Hospital emergency room. When they arrived back in Bakers Mills, their home was gone. They lost everything.
On Oct. 29 and 30, Hurricane Sandy ripped into the East Coast, with New Jersey, New York City and Long Island taking the brunt of the winds and floodwaters. Many lost everything.
We continue to hear stories of Adirondack residents traveling south to the greater New York City area to help with the recovery, including firefighters, police officers and business owners. A nationwide relief effort was set up to help the people who lost property during Hurricane Sandy. It seems we do this for strangers not just in America but around the world who need our help from natural disasters.
Yet it was Bruce and Amy Cleveland’s personal disaster that reminded us that there are people in our own towns, our own region, who also need help.
And that help came. The Clevelands’ friends, family and neighbors in the town of Johnsburg have set up a recovery fund for them, and they held a benefit on Sunday, Nov. 11 at the J&J Foxx Lair Tavern in Bakers Mills. It was a resounding success. People donated food, items for the raffle and auction, and music. The tavern’s manager, Joelene Slater, co-organized the event with Nancy and Bert Heckett from the Wevertown Country Store.
The Cleveland benefit was a classic example of neighbors helping neighbors, and it seems there’s a culture of giving in the town of Johnsburg. The J&J Foxx Lair Tavern regularly holds benefits, including the Halloween Bash for the North Country Hardship Fund, founded by Wayno Bukovinsky, another local resident.
In the spring of 2008, Wayno was in a coma after a serious motorcycle accident. Airlifted to Albany Medical Center, his prognosis, including recovery from traumatic brain injury, was bleak. Soon afterward, there was a widespread effort to help with family and medical costs.
“The North Country Community rallied behind my family,” he said. “Fundraisers were coordinated by childhood friends, fellow firefighters, co-workers and people I had never met before.”
And now Wayno’s paying it forward. After recovering, even in a wheelchair, he set up the North Country Hardship Fund to help neighbors in need throughout the region. In August, their Wayne Stock V benefit concert at the Ski Bowl Park in North Creek raised $22,000 for the Fund, which provides relief to families suffering a tragedy in Warren, Essex, Hamilton, Saratoga and Washington counties.
It’s this kind of pay-it-forward attitude in small Adirondack towns that makes us thankful. Whether we know them or not, our neighbors are willing to help in times of tragedy, and they treat everyone as though they’re family.
Tragedy can strike anytime, and it’s a blessing to know that people like Wayno and Tammy Bukovinsky and businesses like the J&J Foxx Lair Tavern and Wevertown Country Store are here to help.
Yet it’s not only disasters that cause distress in our neighbors’ lives. There are people who need our help every day, with clothing, food and fuel. We should also find time to help them as we look to help others in far-away countries.
So, if you haven’t had a chance to help a neighbor this holiday season, please consider donating to a local charity or food bank in your hometown. The North Country Hardship Fund could certainly use the help. So could the Clevelands; send donations to Community Bank, Main Street, North Creek, NY 12853 c/o the Cleveland Fire Fund.