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Fargo's 'Sandbag Central' light on volunteers so far

A Christian rock band from Portland, Ore., and a concrete company from Grand Forks lent Fargo's volunteer sandbagging a needed boost Thursday. Since it opened late last month, "Sandbag Central," in the city's garbage utility building, has attract...

A Christian rock band from Portland, Ore., and a concrete company from Grand Forks lent Fargo's volunteer sandbagging a needed boost Thursday.

Since it opened late last month, "Sandbag Central," in the city's garbage utility building, has attracted lackluster turnout. Still, slowly but surely, the operation has made it halfway to its goal of 1 million sandbags for this spring's looming flood fight.

But it could use some more help -- locally and from far-flung locales alike.

"It was a little embarrassing today to be a Fargoan, with the people from Grand Forks outnumbering us," said volunteer Melissa Van Vleet, adding, "I keep seeing the same volunteers."

The 70 or so volunteers from the Grand Forks-based Wells Concrete showed up first thing in the morning in a bus, two vans and a pickup. The group allowed "Sandbag Central" to put all three sandbag-making machines to use for the first time.

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Co-general manager Bill Forest said they heard about a shortage of volunteers from staff at a sales office in Fargo. Almost half of the Grand Forks work force volunteered to come out.

Lyle Janke, a FirstLink volunteer coordinator, estimated the Wells group filled more than 30,000 sandbags before leaving at 3:30 p.m.: "They were going strong. The forklifts couldn't keep up."

Sara Lepp, FirstLink's volunteer director, said 150 to 200 sandbaggers a day have turned up, up from about a hundred in the early days. About 400 showed up Saturday. A dozen regulars have racked up 100 or so hours.

Lepp said residents might not be turning out en masse because a sense of urgency hasn't gripped the community. But, "if we can get more done now, it wouldn't be as scrambled and rushed."

The members of Sixteen Cities, a Christian rock band visiting Fargo Oak Grove Lutheran School as part of a Midwest tour, swung by to sandbag for a few hours.

"We are able to reach out to total strangers when they have a need," said Dustin Erhardt, the lead guitarist. "You don't see anything like this back where we're from."

Sandbag Central, at 2301 Eighth Ave. N, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday. The volunteer hot line is at (701) 476-4000.

Related Topics: 2010 FLOODS
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