Special education teacher Cori Kinns has been a woman on the move for so long, that it’s an automatic reflex for her to get up and get helping.
Right after the Mohawk River muscled its way down the main road in Rotterdam Junction in Schenectady County, destroying homes and businesses as it rose to second-story level, Kinns knew she had to act.
“I heard people were being evacuated and I called the principal to set up a spot,” said Kinns, who lives several towns away but taught for years in Rotterdam Junction. Working with her local union, the Schalmont TA, she set up a collection center at a former elementary school to help flood victims of Hurricane Irene.
“I taught here for 20 years,” Kinns said, standing at the collection center, which was home to the former Woestina Elementary School. “I know most of the families. It’s a small, tight community.”
Both Woestina and Mariaville elementary schools were closed in June due to continued statewide budget cuts. Kinns taught at Woestina and now she teaches special education at Jefferson Elementary, also in the Schalmont district.
I’ve wanted to teach since I was five years old,” said the good-natured Kinns. “I was always the teacher when the neighborhood kids played school … I had a neighbor with special needs and that got me interested … When I was in fourth grade there was a special ed teacher on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon and that was it. I told my parents that’s what I wanted to do.”
After the flood, she resumed her leadership role at Woestina Elementary, though this time as a relief coordinator rather than teacher. Sign-up sheets were displayed for school staff volunteering to work at the site, both collecting and dispensing goods. Soon the school’s gymnasium was filled with clothes — all sorted and stacked by sizes —cleaning supplies, cases of water, toothpaste and shampoo, toys, books, and other necessities to get families going again. Teachers, union leaders, School-Related Professionals, aides and administrators all rolled up their sleeves and pitched in.
Kinns also coordinated lists of people willing to donate furniture. Even though she realized flood victims would be out of their damaged homes for months, and some homes were beyond repair, Kinns knew there would be a need for furniture once they settled in somewhere.
When people called offering to donate specific furniture, “We’d ask them to hold it, and take their name and contact number, and list it,” Kinns said.
People can continue to donate or pick up clothing and household goods at the former Mariaville School throughout the winter. Hours are by appointment; call (518) 424-0992.
Kinns comes by helping naturally. A resident of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in nearby Saratoga County, where her three adult children went to school, she was involved with the Parent-Teacher Organization, president of the BH-BL cheerleading booster club for three years, and headed the girls softball league for eight years.
— Liza Frenette