Occasionally a neat story just falls onto my desk. In this case, since I have no desk because of the Memorial Day Weekend flood, it landed on my shared space in our makeshift newsroom/former conference room.
I wasn't surprised to see a news release with my name written at the top and the word "column?" next to it. I was surprised to see that the release was from FEMA. What do I have to do with FEMA?
Apparently, a lot.
The release describes how a Barre native, Rich Quinlan, came back to the Granite City with FEMA, which he has worked for over the last 24 years. Turns out, Quinlan came "back as the Deputy in Charge of the disaster recovery operation here after this spring's storms and flooding." This was his 26th Vermont disaster (we have had that many?!) along with major disasters that drew national attention, like Katrina.
He says in the release: "I hate coming home this way, but at the same time, I'm glad to be in a place where the locals know I'm one of them. I know the rivers, streams, towns and culture. It's neighbor helping neighbor."
While anyone is grateful for whatever assistance is offered after a disaster, it means more when you see a familiar face - and when that familiar face knows the lay of the land and knows its people.
Apparently, this Quinlan guy - a former hockey player at North Adams State (now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) - is pretty darn good at his job. He has a "100 percent success rate for declaration requests to the President." Not a bad stat sheet. He later credits his hockey career for instilling discipline, passion and commitment and the power of working as a team.
He has made sure the state of Vermont has followed all the criteria to be awarded federal aid - to the tune of $65 million since 1987.
But, this is where I come in. He credited his tremendous success rate to a "well-versed knowledge of the Stafford Act, the legislation sponsored by Vermont's own senator, Robert T. Stafford, which authorizes federal disaster funds to be administered for major disasters."
My middle name happens to be Stafford. My grandmother, for whom I am named after, is a Stafford. Robert Stafford - "Uncle Bob" to many members of my family - is the same name behind the Stafford Loan for college students and it's amazing to me to keep learning about how much he did for our state, especially its people.
Thanks, Uncle Bob (and Rich Quinlan), for allowing more than 1,500 Vermonters to have the opportunity to apply for federal aid in the wake of the most financially devastating event we've seen in a while. According to the release, issued July 28, "over $3 million has been approved for housing assistance, other needs and U.S. Small Business Assistance loans in Vermont."
A very cool find in a very small world.