Schoharie Area Long Term celebrated its successes in 18 months of flood recovery on Thursday.
But at the same time, SALT leaders targeted more recovery work ahead and pledged that a new, huge donation will help them towards that goal.
Gathered in a flood-damaged Middleburgh home, SALT officials and local leaders cheered the arrival of Fenimore Asset Management's $250,000 challenge grant for recovery.
FAM offered the grant last fall; the challenge was that SALT had to raise an equal amount by spring, and it did so.
FAM officers Tom and Dusty Putnam offered the grant "because of their love of the area and desire to see it heal," said SALT Executive Director Sarah Goodrich.
Anne Putnam, Tom and Dusty's daughter, presented the oversized check, adding that FAM was delighted and that the timing was particularly special.
"This is a poignant moment. My parents are moving back into their home this week," she said, noting the Putnams' Village of Schoharie house was heavily damaged by Irene.
SALT "will leverage every dollar" of the $500,000 total four to six times by getting reduced material costs and using volunteers, Ms. Goodrich said.
"SALT pledges to put this grant to good use," she said.
Plenty of ways to use that money remain. A recent SALT survey that made 900 contacts indicated that of all the homes damaged, 60 percent are at least 90 percent completely repaired, Ms. Goodrich said.
But that means one-third of the homes need substantial work.
"We can't stop here. Our mission is not complete," Ms. Goodrich said.
The site of SALT's press conference was evidence of remaining work. The Middle Fort Road home of Bill and Amy Wetsell had seven and a half feet of water in it when Schoharie Creek flooded.
And when water receded, a foot of mud covered the ground floor.
On Thursday, the winter wind whistled through cracked windows as officials, volunteers and reporters stood among bare-stud walls.
The family has been out of the home since Irene, staying in Rotterdam, Mr. Wetsell said.
It was confusing about where and how to get help, he added, until SALT stepped in.
"They bailed us out. They've been a Godsend," Mr. Wetsell said.
"It's unbelievable the way this community has come together."
Such an effort must continue, said Ms. Goodrich, likening recovery to a jigsaw puzzle.
"Recovery is a puzzle with one-third of the pieces strewn around," she said.
"We need you to keep being partners with us to get the pieces together again."
She called on local officials and other leaders, the media and residents to continue their focus on flood recovery.
"Only with everyone doing their piece will we achieve our goal," Ms. Goodrich said.