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After floodwaters recede in hard-hit Cavendish, Vermont, neighbors come together at a barbecue

A person stands at a grill and turns hot dogs
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Public
Miguel Seville cooks hot dogs in the parking lot of the Cavendish Baptist Church for a community barbecue Tuesday. The church hosted a shelter for flood victims and has also been a drop off point for donations.

Amanda Gross began collecting donations at the Cavendish Baptist Church last week, when the early weather reports said her region in Windsor County would probably get hit hard.

And when the rain stopped Tuesday, the donations continued to flow.

The Black River runs right through the center of Cavendish, a community of 1,400 people. And Gross knew from Tropical Storm Irene that the river doesn’t have a lot of places to go once it swells.

This section of Windsor County, which includes Ludlow and Andover, suffered as much damage as anyplace in Vermont this week.

More from Vermont Public: Maps: Which areas in Vermont were hit hardest in this week's flooding?

Gross said more than two dozen households spent the first night in the church’s shelter, or at nearby homes that were safe.

“Nobody lost their home, as far as I know. But there is a lot of basements filled up," Gross said. "And so we’re just trying to hear what people need, and then act as a resource center to get it out to them."

People have been picking up supplies or taking showers, and the church has been providing meals, including a breakfast at 8 a.m.

Gross thought it would be nice to have a barbecue to bring people together, and so a big wood-fired grill was set up in the parking lot.

Rob Dayer and his wife had to evacuate their home in Cavendish after the flood waters started rising. He says he was happy to get a meal cooked for him after a stressful few days.

“It was coming up pretty fast, and it was already up to the house, and it was coming up fast still so we left," Dayer said. "And then this morning I started, you know, pumping the basement and hauling mud and, whatever is down in the basement. I mean I was just absolutely covered in mud.

The sanctuary of the Cavendish Baptist Church is filled with cleaning supplies for households that were flooded during the storm.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Public
The sanctuary of the Cavendish Baptist Church is filled with cleaning supplies for households that were flooded during the storm.

Kate Lamphere also said things got bad really quickly.

“You know I heard that it was going to rain. I don’t think it registered with me that it was going to be as bad as it is," Lamphere said. "But when the day started yesterday we realized, you know… My husband left for work, and then I noticed that the water was all the way up in our backyard. And I thought, 'That’s not good. That’s not where the water supposed to be.' And then it was almost like the river was going right through our backyard."

Then, Lamphere said, the neighbors moved out of the apartment behind them.

"And that’s when we were like, 'OK, the water’s at the point where we should go,'" she said. "So we took our dog and two kids and went up on the hill."

The roads around Cavendish are a mess, and Lamphere said she’s waiting to hear when the heating company will be able to make it over from Springfield to look at the hot water boiler. So she said it wasn’t a hard sell to bring the family by for a free hot meal.

“You know it’s nice to be with our community members, and having a shared experience, and getting kids out of the house, and just be together," Lamphere said. "And you don’t have to cook dinner. That’s a great thing too. You can’t wash dishes without hot water."

More from Vermont Public: How Montpelier, Vermont residents are faring following the worst flooding in living memory

About 30 or 40 people showed up and they gathered in the basement for a meal.

Not everyone there suffered through the flood. Sarah Cook said she lives high on a hill in Cavendish, and was able to stay dry, though her road was washed out, and she was temporarily stranded.

With her now road open, she said she wanted to bring her kids down to see friends see what she could do to help.

“People have a strong sense of what they want the community to be," Cook said. "And I think people are in strong agreement they want their elementary school to be strong and good. They want to have like a green where people can come have a green and have concerts in the summer. So, yeah, it’s not just like a crisis-come-together. I think it’s, even though we’re spread out and our town center is small, I think people feel those strings, strongly."

The folks working at the shelter said they’ll be handing out cleaning supplies and food, and finding sump pumps to share until Cavendish is safe and dry.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or reach out to reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman:


Flooding recovery assistance and other key resources

View or share a printable PDF version of these resources.

      Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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