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After Irene: Students honored for efforts

October 19, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH - Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

CLINTONVILLE - Four AuSable Valley High School students were honored Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Bill Owens for their efforts to help those in need after Tropical Storm Irene.

"We have the opportunity as members of Congress to fly a flag over the Capitol (in Washington, D.C.), and the flag that I'm going to give to the school on behalf of the four of you was flown over the Capitol in September," Owens said to the students as he stood before a packed auditorium at AuSable Valley High School. "I hope the school will allow you to fly it over the school, which is extremely important, from my perspective. It's something that represents a sense of country, a sense of community."

Teesha Coolidge, Maddie Hutchins, Michael Rafferty and Christine Darrah were honored during the noon presentation. The ceremony also included members of the local school board, principals, representatives from the town of Jay and school district Superintendent Paul Savage.

Article Photos

AuSable Valley High School students Christine Darrah, Teesha Coolidge, Maddie Hutchins and Michael Rafferty are honored Tuesday for their work helping flood victims after Tropical Storm Irene.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)

Led by Darrah, a senior, the students collected donated goods and gave them to victims of the flooding that occurred on Aug. 28 when Tropical Storm Irene struck the region. The students ran their operations from a donation center within the Jay Community Center in AuSable Forks.

"It was a quick decision on how we decided to start it," Darrah said. "My mother and I were just sitting at home, and I was frustrated that we weren't able to help with the cleanup efforts."

The two then began talking about clothes and how they wished they could put them out where people could get to them, Darrah said. They then decided to call a local scout leader who ran a scout room at the community center, asking if they could use that space. They quickly got permission and wound up using that area from Aug. 30 until Oct. 10.

"Five minutes after we decided we were going to do this, I started a Facebook group," Darrah said. "People started responding immediately. It got to the point where we had almost 400 friends in two week's time."

They posted items on Facebook that they needed and people responded immediately, she said. They also used the local media to bring awareness to their cause.

"If we asked for socks, the next day we had 10 pairs of new socks," Darrah said. "We actually had to put an end to the donations because we simply did not have enough room where we were staying. I was flabbergasted by the love from our community and even (nearby) communities."

Although victims were welcome to come to the donation center, Darrah said goods were also brought directly to people and their homes.

High school Principal Aimee Defayette said she was proud of the students for the work they did after the flooding.

"The efforts that our students put forth to support one another in the community really never ceases to amaze me," she said. "I wasn't really surprised when Christine had organized some relief efforts for the community because that is not only the type of individual that she is but that really is indicative of the type of student we have here at AuSable Valley."



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