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Greenwich Woman Brings Aid to Disaster Area

GREENWICH, Conn. – After a tornado devastated small hamlets in Kentucky earlier this month, a Greenwich woman rallied to distribute two tractor-trailer loads of supplies to the already poverty-ridden area.

“One area is perfectly fine, and you go to another area and it’s destroyed,” says Amy Guerriri, who co-owns Greenwich's Upper Crust Bagel with her husband. She is founder of the Rockin’ Appalachian Mom Project . “The water is back, but some of these people have well water, and it’s polluted now. We had a full 53-foot trailer full of bottled water when we went down. We also had a truck full of food, blankets, cleaning products, personal hygiene projects that another semi took down.”

More than 135 homes were affected and 42 destroyed by the March 2 tornadoes that ripped through Martin County. The small hamlets of Beauty and Lovely were especially devastated by the 160 mph winds. Weeks later, families are continuing to pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild the community.

Guerriri’s nonprofit organization, also known as RAMP, secured donations from its corporate partners, Whole Foods Market and the Capital Area Food Bank. It arranged for trucks to take emergency relief supplies to the area. It all arrived early last week.

RAMP focuses on combating poverty through food, nutrition and economic development, particularly in the Appalachian region of Martin County. Guerriri founded RAMP after seeing a special on ABC-TV with Diane Sawyer called “Hidden America,” which featured the county’s residents. “I couldn’t believe what was going on this country. The poverty I saw was unbelievable,” she said.

When Guerriri first began working in Martin County three years ago, she met a young girl named Sara who was walking the streets wearing socks and flip-flops. “I asked her why in the middle of winter she wasn’t wearing shoes, and she said it was because she didn’t have any,” said Guerriri. Sara’s family lost their home in the tornado. RAMP purchased a trailer, which is now being renovated by volunteers, for Sara's family. “I was not leaving until I found them a place to live.”

FEMA and the American Red Cross arrived after Guerriri and other RAMP volunteers did, so most of the help Martin County received was local. “Families like Sara’s who lost so much in the tornado were out helping other tornado victims. A community that has nothing was helping their neighbors,” she said.

RAMP has focused on Martin County so much in the past three years because it is a pilot program, Guerriri says. “If we can prove success, which we already have in this area, we want to take this all over the country,” she said. In Kentucky, there are 40 counties whose populations live below the poverty line. “We’ll go to where the most immediate need is. None of this should be in our country to start with, even in the middle of a disaster.”

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