Getting it done: Despite low turnout, volunteers help residents north, south of Grand Forks
MANVEL, N.D. -- Volunteer turnout was sluggish Tuesday and Wednesday as homeowners north and south of Grand Forks sought help sandbagging. Though 150 people signed up for online volunteer alerts, only about 30 volunteers slung sandbags at the Bur...
MANVEL, N.D. -- Volunteer turnout was sluggish Tuesday and Wednesday as homeowners north and south of Grand Forks sought help sandbagging.
Though 150 people signed up for online volunteer alerts, only about 30 volunteers slung sandbags at the Burke Addition on Tuesday, and 50 people helped out rural residents near Manvel, N.D., Wednesday.
"I think it was quite a bit fewer (volunteers) than we were expecting, but you get what you get, and you work with what you get," said Kurtis Shelton, project coordinator for RSVP+ Northeast.
RSVP+ Northeast was the non-profit organization coordinating volunteers in Grand Forks County.
Despite the low turnout, they were "able to send volunteers to pretty much everybody that asked," Shelton said.
Volunteers met at the Alerus Center and rode a school bus to their shifts, which started every two hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Some volunteers stayed for multiple shifts.
Wednesday morning, there was "a sprinkle of people," said RSVP+ Americorps VISTA member Leighann McKenzie.
In the afternoon, five airmen and a UND student made up the 1 p.m. crew. After a bumpy ride down a rutted dirt road with water on both sides, the volunteers arrived at the Benson home off of U.S. Highway 81 near Manvel. The water had come up around the Bensons' mobile home during the night, so they planned to lay a line of sandbags, then pump the trapped water away from their house. Volunteers helped by filling and tying sandbags.
The airmen had all arrived within the last month for the Global Hawk mission, but until all their equipment was in place, they were happy to do some community service.
"It's better to help out than sit in the office all day," said Airman 1st Class Ryan Moon, who moved to Grand Forks in March from Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif.
UND student Deelia Gage was back for a second day of sandbagging. She saw the call for volunteers on the Facebook page for UND Emergency Response on Tuesday and signed up.
As she said Tuesday, losing her own home to a combined fire and flood compelled her to volunteer this week. She paid no mind to her walking cast from a snowboarding accident ("I was doing a 360!") or the fresh blisters on her hands as she filled sandbags Wednesday.
Even the bus driver lent a hand. Alex Yakymi sandbagged in Fargo in 2009, too, and Tuesday he worked with the crew at Steve Adams' house in the Burke Addition until 9:30 p.m.
At the Benson home, Dale Benson and his wife Betty's daughters, Emily and Kelsey Kersten, did the slow work of laying the sandbags. They loaded the filled bags into children's wagons and pulled them through the flooded yard, past a trampoline and the clothesline. The daughters wore chest waders; Benson wore knee-high rubber boots with wet marks below his knees. Each time they returned for another load, they had to dump dirty water out of the wagons.
At the 3 p.m. shift change at the Alerus, a couple of the airmen stayed and a dozen new volunteers joined them.
With the crest expected Thursday afternoon, Shelton said he thought Wednesday would be the last day volunteers would be needed.
"I think the plan is kind of hold tight. If something happens, we'll react."
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