Dundee volunteers recognized for flood rescues

James Post
Dundee Fire Dept. representatives Ray Miller and Chief Jim Moore (back row in red) accepted the award on behalf of the Fire Department.

The Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes distributed $104,125.42 Tuesday to seven nonprofits serving Schuyler County that assisted in flood recovery and assistance efforts last summer. The Dundee Fire Department was among the groups receiving $14,875.06.

The funds were made available as a result of fundraising by the band Phish and their nonnrofit WaterWheel Foundation.

Phish was forced to cancel Curveball last summer, a planned three-day festival at Watkins Glen International, amidst a 14-county state of emergency due to serious flooding.

Dundee volunteers used their small boat and water rescue training and experience to help with rescues in Montour Falls, including a number of animals from the Schuyler County Humane Society. 

Randi Hewit is president of the Community Foundation. Her organization was asked by the WaterWheel Foundation to determine how the funds would be distributed.

Hewit, at a gathering at Watkins Glen International’s trackside Jack Daniels Club, said the donation to Schuyler County organizations was not an afterthought, but rather came about as the result of discussions by the band as the decision was made that the festival would be canceled.

“Phish, right away, they huddled together and said, ‘OK, we’re not just going to forget what happened here—rather, we going to figure out how to raise some money to give back to this community,’” Hewit said.

The funds are the result of taking merchandise produced specifically for the Curveball festival and selling it to fans at other shows—fans who were told the money would go back to Schuyler County.

“At first we were told the total would be $60,000, and that was great,” said Sarah Palmer, who handles grants for the Community Foundation. “And then we heard $80,000—and then finally more than $104,000.”

As a result of the donation by Phish and the Waterwheel Foundation, checks for $14,875.06 each were presented Tuesday to the Arbor Housing and Development Foundation, the American Red Cross of the Finger Lakes, the Dundee Fire and Rescue Team, the Hector Food Pantry, the Humane Society of Schuyler County, the Watkins Glen Fire Department and the Valois, Logan and Hector Fire Department.

Palmer said the decisions to allocate funds were made based on the organizations’ contributions to safety during the flooding and the recovery afterward.

Beth Montuori Rowles, executive director of The WaterWheel Foundation, said in a written statement the band and the foundation were “just glad to have the opportunity to help.”

“Being able to make this donation reaffirms all of our goals as a charitable foundation, harnessing the collective philanthropic efforts of Phish and their fans to be able to give meaningful donations to the communities that we visit on tour,” Rowles said.

“We are so thankful to Phish and The WaterWheel Foundation for supporting these amazing nonprofits across Schuyler County with individual grants of nearly $15,000 per organization. This gesture not only speaks to the strong partnership Watkins Glen International has with Phish, but to the overall impact on Schuyler County and the Finger Lakes region.” said Michael Printup, President of Watkins Glen International.