Upcoming: Mardi Gras Pancake Dinner

Tuesday, February 21 we celebrate MARDI GRAS or Fat Tuesday, the traditional day for one last culinary fling before Lent, which begins the following day. This by-donation dinner is a benefit for Higher Ground and is open to the whole community. Current and former residents of The Spruces eat free! Come between 5-6:30 pm to listen to the Taylor Halperin Jazz Trio and enjoy Jeannie Ranney’s pancakes – blueberry, cranberry, apple, and chocolate chip – with flavored syrups, baked apples, sausage and beverages. There will also be cereal available for people silly enough not to like pancakes! To make a reservation or if you’d like to help in some way, call 413-458-4273 or e-mail office@firstchurchwilliamstown.org.

Download the Fat Tuesday Poster to distribute!

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Rev. Don Remick, co-chair of the Disaster Resource Team of the MA Conference for the United Church of Christ, mentioned Higher Ground in a recent article. “Disaster Recovery: The Unprecedented Year Continues” discussed the difficulties of sustained disaster recovery, reminding us that “Disaster recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. And it will still be a long time before folks discover a new normal: a new way of stable living.”

Rev. Remick mentions Higher Ground as an example of the faith-based effort to find this “new normal,” and writes:

One example of [faith-based initiatives] is in Williamstown. Following the flooding rains of Hurricane Irene, one whole mobile home park was left uninhabitable. Over 200 families were displaced. Only half of them have been allowed back. The rest will not be. The church formed a Long Term Recovery Group consisting of local leaders, federal and state guidance and non profit assistance. Led by our Rev. Carrie Bail, this group is ensuring that the most vulnerable of populations is not left unseen as life moves on for everyone else.

Words from Peter Fohlin, Town Manager

Today, Town Manager Peter Fohlin posted the following to the Williamstown website.

The earthquake analogy applies to The Spruces. Rescue workers continue to search days after any hope of finding an earthquake survivor has been lost. And so it has been at The Spruces for five months. We have inched our way up from 60 to 63 legally occupied “Green” trailers and 3 more “Yellow” trailers with realistic prospects of recovery for a total of only 66 of 225 homes. Friday trailer number 67 appeared out of nowhere. The second home owners had been working quietly and diligently under the radar to reclaim their trailer. Thursday they called for their final gas inspection and passed. While this is not a primary residence, the good fortune of one of our seasonal survivors is to be celebrated. Yet this good fortune does not diminish the loss for our neighbors who were not so lucky.

It’s great to hear some good news for our neighbors as we continue to move forward as an organization.

Call for Case Managers

Higher Ground’s Casework Coordinator Susan Puddester is looking for more volunteers:

As a result of Tropical Storm Irene, 225 families were displaced, if not specifically from their homes, from their community. These individuals, who had typically been independent, are having to navigate State codes for their damaged dwellings, FEMA and SBA to help with housing, lodging and personal replacement funding. It is a very complicated and confusing process. Many still have unmet needs.

The case management volunteers work with individuals to partner with them on their road to recovery, by advocacy, emotional support, intervention, and by assisting them in accessing appropriate services. No experience is necessary. There will be a two day training in Bennington Vermont, provided by UMCOR(United Methodist Church Disaster Relief Organization) on January 9 and 10. It is a thorough, comprehensive training, that is great in general for your personal life skills.

Case managers work in pairs and have access to a case management supervisor, and weekly meetings. Please consider offering you time to help these individuals through their recovery process.

To get involved, please contact Susan Puddester at 410-562-6022.