Schumer will 'lean on' FEMA for Camp Good Days' sake

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Standing outside a new cabin that replaces one destroyed by the May floods at Camp Good Days, Sen. Chuck Schumer talks with Camp Founder Gary Mervis.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer has pledged to “lean on” Washington D.C. bureaucracy to convince officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to designate Camp Good Days on Keuka Lake as a critical services organization, making it eligible for reimbursement for flood damage sustained in May.

The floods struck the camp just days before it was scheduled to open for its 35th year. The camp reopened in July after restoration work was complete. One cabin was completely destroyed and needed to be replaced with a new building. The picnic area and creek were revamped and reinforced with a barrier to prevent future flooding damage.

Speaking with Camp Founder Gary Mervis, camp staff and others at an announcement last week, Schumer said the designation will help the non-profit organization recover from over $540,000 in damage.

“On behalf of all the children and families served by Camp Good Days and Special Times, we are so excited to have the help and assistance of Senator Chuck Schumer in recovering from the flooding we had sustained in May,” said Mervis. “This summer, which was our 35th Anniversary, was significantly put in jeopardy by the floods. Although we were able to hold all our residential camping programs, we still need to find a permanent solution to shore up the areas that continue to be problematic.”

“I’m confident if we get this grant, we can celebrate 35 more years,” said Schumer.

Before touring some of the cabins that had been filled with mud, and a new building that replaced one that had been damaged beyond repair in May, Schumer talked about his conversations with FEMA officials.

“The devastating flooding that swept across Yates County hurt homeowners, farmers, renters, businesses, towns, and community organizations. All deserve every available assistance to help them recover, and that’s why I pushed to secure federal disaster assistance to aid the recovery. But that effort is far from complete. Camp Good Days is currently working to recover but, because FEMA does not yet recognize it as a ‘critical services’ organization, it is not eligible to apply for the funds necessary to be reimbursed for repairs it had to make this summer to open and serve local families and children,” said Schumer. “Camp Good Days is a special organization, on the front lines of helping those who have been impacted by cancer or other challenges, and it is tragic that it suffered from such serious flood damage back in May. We should not add insult to injury by making the camp ineligible to receive the funding it deserves and needs. That is why I am urging FEMA to provide this ‘critical services’ designation to Camp Good Days, because it not only provides the educational and wellness services required by FEMA, but also provides the good days and special times that families and children suffering from cancer need to remember that they will not have to face their battle alone.”

Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides year-round recreational and support activities for children, adults and families facing the challenges of cancer, violence, sickle cell anemia or other challenges at no charge.

Camp officials are seeking reimbursement of 75 percent of the $540,000 in damage done on May 14 and 16. Schumer noted securing this reimbursement is particularly important since Camp Good Days faces up to $200,000 additional cost to build new flood mitigation infrastructure after a localized flood again inundated parts of the camp in August. Since this August flood was not caused by the May storms, Camp Good Days must directly shoulder the cost of this new work to further shore up their areas prone to flooding.

Schumer said the May floods did $11 million in damage to publicly owned facilities and infrastructure within the county. FEMA expects to provide Yates County applicants grant funding to share the cost of repairing and rebuilding 23 major projects, totaling $6.5 million, and another 118 smaller projects valued at $4.1 million.

Last month, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand met with officials at The Arc of Yates, and pledged to work to secure the designation for that agency, which serves people with developmental disabilities. Within days, FEMA announced the designation was approved for the North Avenue building that sustained more than $1.2 million in damage.