Dorothy Maffei honored at ceremony

By Pauline Liu
The Shopmargaretville merchants’ group honored one of its own by asking her to perform the tree lighting in Margaretville last Saturday.

Dorothy Maffei of New Kingston has owned Home Goods of Margaretville for 15 years. She explained that she is embarrassed by all of the attention and praise she has been receiving, when all she wanted to do was help. After the village was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene on August 28, Maffei took on an additional full-time job, working strictly as a volunteer.

From her store, she has tirelessly coordinated and recruited volunteers to help with relief and recovery efforts throughout Middletown. “We just started running around and doing stuff,” she explained. “We didn’t need titles or status. We were very happy to stay under the radar,” she added.
Her work did not stay under the radar for long.

“She has done a lot and she has been a very good asset to this village,” said Margaretville Mayor Bill Stanton, in a phone conversation. Maffei has no idea how many flood victims she has been able to help, but she stresses that she could not do it alone. She works closely with volunteers, Jess Olenych of Arkville, Yuka Day of Halcott Center and Lynn Collins of Fleischmanns. “It was about helping our neighbors and seeing all of the smiling, grateful faces,” said Olenych, who laughed about how her volunteer work has earned her the nicknames, “Mrs. Arkville” and “Dorothy’s other half.”

What amazes Maffei’s friends the most, is that she has performed so much volunteer work , while caring for her 92-year-old mother, Leona, who recently passed away. “Since the day after the flood, she got so involved in helping and organizing,” said Mark Osterweil of Margaretville. “It has really consumed her life. She is super-dedicated. In the midst of all this, she was also running a store and caring for her gravely ill mother, who passed away. She is quite an extraordinary woman,” he added.

Growing up in Syracuse, Dorothy worked as a managing director of an off-Broadway theater called “Second Stage,” before moving to this region in 1990. She credits her mother for instilling her with a sense of social consciousness and volunteerism. “She was a really great person,” said Maffei. “My mother was the head of the League of Women Voters in Syracuse. She helped with the Red Cross.

My mother loved to cook and she worked really hard to make people feel welcome.”

Maffei’s own people skills have been put to good use as she seeks help for recovery efforts. According to Maffei, sometimes she recruits people from right off the street and they’re happy to oblige. “One day, we were desperate for heavy equipment,” she explained. ‘”We went to see Dave Johnson, who is a retired farmer in East Meredith. Dave had a front loader. He drove it and worked on Pavilion Road for two whole days. His wife stayed with him. We called him, ‘A hero.’”
Volunteers who came forward offered a wide array of help. One even built a website, www.rebuild123.org.

“Ken McCarthy built the website, where you could put down what you want and tell people what you don’t need,” Maffei said. “He came back in a few days and said, ‘Here is your website and here is your password,” she added. The website has been expanded to include wish lists from residents and flood relief workers in Schoharie, Ulster, Greene and Orange Counties.

According to Maffei, local flood victims are seeking are computers, dressers, bookcases, blenders and other small appliances as well as mattresses in excellent shape. According to Maffei, much of the money donated to the Interfaith Council has been spent on purchasing new beds.

Maffei finds that flood victims are sometimes reluctant to accept help. “When something like this happens to our community, it happens to all of us,” Maffei said. “I actually have to convince people that it’s not a line and I have to convince people that we all need help. I’m practical. I say, ‘ People donated this stuff for you.’ They’re reluctant to take it at first,” she added.

Fellow volunteers, like Maureen MacDougall of Fleischmanns, offer praise for Maffei. “I think without somebody like her helping, we’d be in a lot worse shape than we are now and we truly appreciate her,” said MacDougall.

Maffei admits that she is reluctant to take off from her volunteer work because she worries about what she’ll mxiss out on. She explained the job presented itself, just as she was looking to stretch her limits. “I was thinking about what I could do of value in this world and that was the time the flood hit and I threw myself into it,” she said. “I think what’s happening is building community strength and trust, I mean, look at what the merchants were doing with the tree,” she added.