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Relief Team Gears Up For Missions to N.Y.

Barnard — Two weeks ago, Erik and Laurel Tobiason headed down to Staten Island, N.Y. Their foster daughter’s brother-in-law was in trouble following Sandy, and they wanted to help out.

The relation was distant, but the help still mattered.

“They were just floundering,” Laurel Tobiason said. “They were turning in circles. They didn’t know where to start. They didn’t know what to do.”

Ultimately, they started by gutting the house. But Sandy’s wrath was hard to ignore, and Staten Island had been hit hard. The Tobiasons’ connection wasn’t the only one in trouble. It reminded Laurel Tobiason of the devastation — and desperation — that hit the Upper Valley following Tropical Storm Irene.

That revelation was the genesis of The Green Mountain Sandy Relief Team, a group spearheaded by the Tobiasons that will collect donations and bring them down to Staten Island, along with manpower to help with demolition and mold removal.

There are three weekend trips planned: Dec. 14-17, Dec. 28-31 and Jan. 11-14. Those interested in joining can email Joanne Boyle, who is running the communication arm of the relief team, at jm.boyle57@gmail.com.

“We want people that are experienced with dealing with dirty, heavy work that don’t mind getting dirty and hauling materials, that are willing to make their own decisions and work independently,” said Laurel Tobiason, who, along with her husband, will make structural assessments on buildings during future trips.

The group will also be sending a 53-foot trailer, full of donations, down to storage in Staten Island. The trailer will be parked behind the Pizza Chef in Woodstock from Dec. 10-16, and will accept items including space heaters, lightly used or new furniture and small kitchen appliances.

“These people, most of them, their cars got totaled because of the salt water,” Boyle said. “They can’t get to the one Home Depot in the area that’s 30 miles away to get stuff like a toaster or a microwave.”

A collection point will run during the same week at Lukana’s Dream, a nonprofit thrift store at 285 Main St. in Bethel, and will accept smaller donations.

When in New York, the group will work within one neighborhood over the course of each weekend. According to Erik Tobiason, it’s better not to try to do too much at once.

“You could just go down there, and immediately you’re overwhelmed,” he said.

— Jon Wolper