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 also has 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 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 in Vermont — Royalton is the second — were not hurt by the storm, but the Bethel plant was without power for two days. He estimates that at least half of the 300 employees were affected by the storm.
The company was cut off on three sides, but a major highway on the fourth side allowed GW to get the materials it needed and ship out products. Riehl said the firm was able to operate because of the efforts of the employees.
GW has formed a committee to find additional ways of helping. It has supplied generators, helped find temporary housing and set up transportation. 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.
Many who lost their homes do not have flood insurance and some have lost their cars or source of transportation, Riehl said. 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 began as an idea in the two Vermont plants, but soon was expanded throughout GW Plastics' eight plants. Later, it expanded again to the company's customers and suppliers.
Riehl said the company has been matching private donations, but he did not release the total amount raised. He said any contributions may be sent to the attention of human resources director Cathy Tempesta at GW Plastics Inc., 239 Pleasant St., Bethel, Vt. 05032.