Out-Of-Towner Awestruck By Pound Ridge Volunteers

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Jacquie Vlymen in her Pound Ridge Office of Emergency Management vest.
Jacquie Vlymen in her Pound Ridge Office of Emergency Management vest. Photo Credit: Donna Simons

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – South Salem resident Jacquie Vlymen was in Pound Ridge visiting her friend Donna Simons the day after Hurricane Sandy hit. She didn’t know that visit would last as long as it did.

She ended up becoming a storm-crisis volunteer and, as a result of what she saw, she is considering moving to Pound Ridge someday.

Simons, a local artist, was part of the large team of volunteers who helped Pound Ridge cope with the storm’s aftermath. She was leaving on a mission when Vlymen arrived at her home on Westchester Avenue.

“I stopped by to see Donna, and she was on her way to deliver firewood and water to the seniors and asked me if I wanted to come along,” Vlymen said. “I told her that I couldn’t, but I got about a block away and ended up coming back. I told her that I am a sucker for seniors and asked her what could I do.”

Vlymen ended up helping deliver the wood and water to seniors, and then she helped create a schedule for the volunteers. Next she manned the phones at the Town House, then stayed at the shelter at Conant Hall until 5 a.m.

Vlymen, who grew up in White Plains and teaches math in addition to working in retail, said she was moved by what she saw in Pound Ridge.

“I was so impressed by the volunteers and what they were doing for the seniors,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I am from lower Westchester and can’t imagine they would physically go check on the seniors in a crisis like they did here. I told everyone I want to move to Pound Ridge so when I am a senior, someone will check on me.”

It was the sense of community and the way everyone pulled together during the crisis that affected Vlymen the most.

“[Scotts Corner Market] opened up with free lunch for people who didn’t have a meal,” she said. “I’ve only shopped there once before, but I would go back and shop there just because they did that. I was also impressed by the way the entire community showed up at the Town House asking, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ ”

Simons said she wasn’t surprised that her friend got so involved in Pound Ridge’s volunteer efforts.

“She is so dedicated and selfless,” Simons said. “She saw what was going on and just rolled up her sleeves. When she was at the Town House, there was a boy there who needed help with his math, and Jacquie is a math tutor. She offered to sit there with him and help him. She’s just the salt of the earth.”

Vlymen said she was initially a little uncomfortable because she didn’t know anyone, but everyone welcomed her with open arms.

“They would just say, ‘Wow! You’re not from Pound Ridge?’ ” she said.

Vlymen said the story shouldn’t be about her, but about the volunteers and all the town agencies that came together to help Pound Ridge make it through the crisis.

“I was impressed with how the OEM handled everything,” she said, referring to the town Office of Emergency Management. “And what Louise Paolicelli and her Neighbor to Neighbor group did for the seniors was amazing. I was awestruck.

“I am new to South Salem, and it was just by circumstance that I happened to end up in Pound Ridge that day. And when something like that happens, you just step in wherever you can.”

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There is no question! Our town is exceptional in the way folks look after one another. The OEM and other volunteers at the Town House (and Conant Hall for Election Day) got hot meals, ice, water and firewood to seniors who were housebound. Those of us who could get to the Town House were warmed not only by the heating units but by the open-hearted welcome: food, hot soup or coffee, somewhere to recharge cell phones and surf the internet on computers, even donated books... and of course, the smiling greetings. Chief Dave Ryan and his staff practically adopted all of us and made everyone feel looked after, even to the extent of checking to see if someone's house had power back and coming back to tell them! Welcome to Pound Ridge, Jacquie.