BETHEL, VT. (Sept. 14, 11:15 a.m. ET) — Tropical Storm Irene left the state a few weeks ago, but Vermonters, including many GW Plastics Inc. employees, are still struggling from the effects.
The company is helping out and has also set up the GW Plastics Storm Relief Fund for employees and families who were impacted by the storm.
“Many of our employees lost their homes, suffered property damage or had their cars were washed down the rivers. We had a group of employees that were completely cut off for a while,” said President and CEO Brenan Riehl, in a telephone interview.
“Many were significantly impacted by the storm. Yet, many or all were somehow able to get to work. Some actually hiked up mountains or got ATV rides to come to Bethel. It was incredible display,” he said.
Riehl said the two GW Plastics plants were not hurt by the storm, although the Bethel plant was without power for two days. However, he estimated that at least half of the 300 employees were affected by the storm.
Riehl said GW was cut off on three sides but a major highway on the fourth side allowed it to get the materials it needed and also to ship out products. He said that the firm was able to operate because of the efforts of the employees.
The company has formed a committee to see how it can help. It has supplied generators, helped find temporary housing and set up transportation. Groups of employees have started volunteer groups and have been going to homes to clean and restore what they can.
One employee, according to Riehl, even built his own road to get out.
He said that many who lost homes do not have flood insurance. Others have lost their cars or source of transportation. Still, others were hurt by the loss of power for days. The state itself still has many roads and bridges that will take much time to repair.
The relief fund started as an idea in the two Vermont plants, but soon was expanded throughout GW Plasticss' eight plants. Later, it expanded again to the company's customers and suppliers.
Riehl said the company has been matching private donations, but did not release the total amount raised. Anyone wishing to contribute can write a check to “GW Plastics Inc.” and send it to ATTN: Cathy Tempesta, director of human resources, GW Storm Relief Fund, GW Plastics Inc., 239 Pleasant St., Bethel, Vt., 05032.