Friends, strangers lend a hand

When snow crushes business, volunteers respond

HUDSON — Snow literally smashed Pulver’s Glass not once but twice in the past two weeks. But now, after an outpouring of community support, the glass and bicycle company hopes to reopen for business as early as March 1.

The roof of the company’s old garage complex on Green Street, which consisted of connected bays under arched tin sections, collapsed on the first weekend of February, destroying much of the inventory of glass below. Members of the family business started cleaning up the site right away, with plans to get back in operation as soon as possible. Then, three days later, the weight of the remaining snow and ice led a second roof to cave in, and at that point the future of the business looked bleak.

“When the roof collapsed the second time, that was enough to take the wind out of anybody’s sails. The important factor was the support they got from the community, including financial support, which they did not want to accept right away,” said George Sharpe, a former town supervisor in Germantown, where the family that owns Pulver’s Glass lives. “They know people are struggling financially now. But people kept calling. People want to help.”

Mr. Sharpe helped rally the community to assist the family business in part because he has know generations of the family and is aware of how many members have volunteered to help the community.

The current principals of the business, which has been around for 96 years, are Eric Mortenson and his stepfather, George Pulver. Mr. Mortenson and his wife, who live in Gallatin, have an eight-month-old baby. He serves on the Germantown school board and is the secretary of the Southern Columbia Little League. They’re part of the agricultural community, and Mr. Mortenson knows about lending a hand — in exchange for helping others bring in hay, his neighbors take care of his cow and give him fruit.

Soon after the catastrophe Mr. Mortenson contacted Mr. Sharpe. “I called him to see if there were grants that could help us get through this, because we didn’t have any insurance,” he says.

Then Germantown Supervisor and Chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Roy Brown called Mr. Mortenson to discuss low interest loans for disaster relief.

“They all called and e-mailed their friends. People started showing up like crazy. That’s why we’re going to be opening in a couple of weeks,” Mr. Mortenson said. Carpenters and other skilled laborers worked on the building; others helped with the demolition and cleanup. Joe Palumbo, who went to school with Eric and now owns Joe’s Auto in Elizaville, lent them a dump truck. Mr. Mortenson said in a phone conversation on Tuesday that even after the first roof caved in they weren’t sure how they could afford an excavator to remove debris. But Visage, a Germantown construction firm, brought one in and operated it free of charge.

“If it weren’t for the community we couldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” said Mr. Mortenson.

Subway, The Chinese Buffet, Dunkin Donuts and the nearby Hess Station donated coffee and food for the volunteers. Herrington’s has given them an employee discount and extended credit. Williams Lumber offered help too.

Local freelance cameraman Lance Wheeler, who covered the story for Channel 6, connected Pulver’s with his cousin, D.F. Wheeler, an engineer in Dutchess County, who volunteered his assistance, made drawings for the repaired building and worked with Hudson Building Inspector Peter Wuster to save the structure. Ralph Kring of RIK Fine Home Building volunteered to be the general contractor. Scores of volunteers have showed up to help. Last Saturday people worked in shifts and built most of a side wall for the damaged building.

Greg Fingar arranged for the Bank of Greene County to set up an account so that people wishing to donate may send or drop off checks made out to Pulver’s Glass. The account continues to accept donations.

“When this terrible thing happened, it was an easy thing to rally the troops,” said Mr. Sharpe. “It was time for the community to do something for them for a change.”

Mr. Brown and Deputy Supervisor Austin Sullivan have organized a benefit dinner, 6 p.m. this Friday, February 18, at Blue Stores Restaurant, Route 9 in Livingston. For more information, call Mr. Sullivan at the Germantown Town Hall, 518 537-6687. Mr. Pulver declined to be interviewed for this article, but his stepson expects that he will attend next Friday’s benefit party.

“It was bad, but it is turning out to be one of the best life experiences I’ve ever had,” said Mr. Mortenson. “I’ve never been a part of this type of community support. It seems like all I do is say thank you now.”

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