My take: A pair of impressive people

Home Editorials My take: A pair of impressive people

by Steve Feldman

I’m not the type who is easily impressed. It’s been a long life, and I’ve seen a whole lot. Secretariat’s 31-length romp in the 1973 Belmont Stakes impressed me. Aron Ralston, the guy who cut off his arm to survive after that ill-fated hike in Utah, impressed me.

While not as dramatic, I have been impressed by a few people over the past month. I think it’s because it resonates to their core.

FCNews associate editor and web manager Emily Hooper has neither an abundance of time nor money. She hails from Binghamton, N.Y., whose main draw is Binghamton University, considered among the best in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. And that’s about it. Approximately one week after Hurricane Irene blasted across the East Coast, Tropical Storm Lee struck, flooding already over-saturated river banks and swollen streams, resulting in the worst flooding Binghamton has ever seen. The storm evacuated 20,000 residents (nearly half the city’s existing population) and has caused almost $100 million in damage.

While that kind of number is scary for any community, it is especially worrisome for parts of Broome and Tioga counties that make up the Binghamton area. It was once a region of great prosperity, starting in the mid 1800s with Endicott Johnson Shoe Co.—one of the largest shoe manufacturers up through World War II—and last seeing prosperity when businesses like IBM and Lockheed Martin were in steady production and winning contracts.

Luckily, grassroots charities are sprouting up among residents and people like Emily, who have long since left the area. Last week, she helped raise close to $3,000 to rebuild an area elementary school, which was so badly damaged it delayed the start of school for close to one month. Five counties surrounding Binghamton have been approved for FEMA assistance but timing is uncertain, especially as winter approaches.

Emily tells me things are still so bad that donations like clothing are not even being accepted right now because there are no homes for people to go back to. Time and materials are in great need, and the places that need it most can’t afford to hire a contractor or install 2,000 square feet of new flooring.

Emily is so passionate about this place she once called home, she went so far as to connect with the commissioner of social services who is helping provide statistics and information on areas and families of the greatest need. Her hope is that any manufacturer, distributor or retailer with any kind of product overage that would be suitable for donation would be willing to work with the agency.

Her efforts are impressive.

Jack Raidy impresses me because he is a big man. He is neither tall, nor is he overweight. He is not the president of a billion dollar company, nor does his company sell any of the more high-profile flooring products. Raidy is the owner and president of W.F. Taylor, which recently lost its founder (see obituary on Wally Taylor).

I know you may find this hard to believe, but on rare occasions FCNews publishes something that is taken out of context or to which someone takes exception. Such was the case some months ago with an article than raised the ire of Raidy. When Dustin Aaronson, our national sales manager, and I flew across the country to apologize, we were expecting the worst. Instead, Raidy, the stand-up guy that he is, accepted our apology, shook our hands and said, “You know what bothers me more than anything? Customers who are still looking for an apology 10 years after we have made a mistake. You accept it, put it behind you and move on.”

That impressed me.

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