Tropical Storms Irene and Lee filled Keri and Daniel Hladik's low-lying Rotterdam Junction home with 14 feet of water last summer. The Hladiks had just renovated their home.
"The whole house was destroyed," she recalled. Mrs. Hladik had stashed her wedding album and deceased pets' ashes on the second floor the day before Irene, but lost her husband's tools, family photos and a rose from her grandfather's casket. "That's the stuff that can't be replaced."
The floods hit when Mrs. Hladik was pregnant and unemployed and her husband was out of work due to an injury. Today, the Hladiks live with their newborn son, Daniel, and four pets at her parents' house in Scotia.
"It's tight," she said. "We make do because that's what families do. You don't expect to be living with your parents again at 30."
The family has been receiving support from the whole community - including St. Helen's School in Schenectady, which donated baby clothes and toys, cat food, dog treats, Christmas decorations and more than $200 in gift cards.
"St. Helen's helping with this has been so heartwarming," Mrs. Hladik said. "You have to go out and buy everything all over again - from a jar of mustard to a picture frame. I can't say enough good things" about the school's aid.
Sister Jane Herb, IHM, diocesan superintendent of schools, had briefed principals on the aftermath of the floods, and asked each of the Albany Diocese's 24 schools to adopt a Rotterdam Junction family through Catholic Charities for the school year.
Many did; some schools are helping storm victims through different organizations.
"There was a great need," said Terri McGraw, diocesan assistant superintendent of schools.
Even the diocesan Catholic Schools Office adopted a family: grandparents, a single mother and her three children, one of whom uses a wheelchair. The office gave them food and home improvement gift cards and Christmas presents; Ms. McGraw is already looking ahead to Valentine's Day and Easter.
"It wasn't just a flash in the pan around holiday time," she noted.
That kind of long-term partnership is invaluable to the Hladiks, who lost clothes and electronics and are still waiting for their home to be razed and rebuilt.
"How do you ask for everything without sounding selfish?" Mrs. Hladik had wondered. St. Helen's School told her to make a wish-list. "This really has brought a lot of light to my life. People are there and they will pick you up."
St. Clement's School in Saratoga adopted a family of five whose newest member was about six weeks old when the family was rescued by boat and evacuated, said Jane Kromm, principal. Donations have enabled the school to give the family cash, gift cards, clothing, games and puzzles.
One third-grade girl at St. Clement's drops a quarter from her piggy bank in the collection jar every day, Ms. Kromm said.
Students wrote Christmas cards "trying to reassure them that everything would be OK," she said. A second-grader advised the hard-hit family, "Don't worry. God will be there to help you."