Monday, June 13, 2011

An update on our weekend in Springfield MA (including virtual paper plate awards)

  A small, but hard working crew of 8 BonaResponds volunteers traveled to Springfield Massachusetts to help clean up after their recent tornadoes.  Some notes on the trip:

  • The damage is extensive.  Many many trees down and hundreds of homes destroyer. Unlike Alabama, most of the destroyed homes that we saw are still standing (not blown entirely away).
  • We did not travel east of Springfield but from what we heard the damage there is even worse.
  • We cleaned out 9 yards.  It is hard to estimate exactly how much we saved the home owners, but one of the jobs had been quoted at $4,200 and it was a pretty average job.  If that price is an accurate representation of the "average" job, we contributed well over $30,000 services.  Personally I think it is a bit high, but I am comfortable with saying we contributed $25,000.
  • We teamed with many quite a few local residents (and hopefully future BonaResponds volunteers).  These included a large number of home owners (it is always a treat to work along side those who live there--it was one of the things I really missed in Alabama).  We also worked with parishioners of the Holy Cross Parish in Springfield. 
  • We had 5 chain saws going much of the time.  This allowed us to break up and tackle multiple jobs at once.  
  • We largely went up and down the area near Surrey and Agnes Streets.  Indeed, on each neighbor after neighbor came and we went house to house. (Reminiscent of our very non Katrina trip in 2006 for the October Surprise Snow Storm in Buffalo as neighbors helped neighbors).
  • Many neighborhoods are completely unliveable.  Not as bad as Tuscaloosa, but more similar than one would think based on news coverage.
  • There will be work for a long time to come. Just in Springfield, we had to turn down many jobs.
  • I hate to begin thanking people as I will miss someone, but would be remiss without trying, so BIG thank you's to Sr. Cindy and Br Bob for helping to arrange jobs, showers, food, and volunteers.  And also to Gareth Flannery and the West Springfield Church of Christ for allowing us to stay in their church. And finally Jason Sears who from Florida did more to assure this trip happened than anyone.  From contacting people on the ground, to arranging a place for us to stay, to constantly reminding me of the need for us there, the trip would likely not have occurred without Jason.
  • It was about a 7.5 hour drive, which while less than our recent Greenville and Tuscaloosa trips is still a non trivial jaunt.
  • Driving through Springville to leave I got a call from Jay Starr.  Jay is a friend from our trips to Biloxi where she was probably the best volunteer coordinator (organizer) I have seen.  She kept track of multiple job sites, where people were, etc.  I had not seen her since I think Iowa in 2007 after their floods.  Anyways the call went something like this: 
    • Me: "Hey long time" 
    • Jay:"Any chance you are driving a tan van through Springfield MA?" 
    • Me: "uh, do you have camera's spying on us"
    • Jay:" No, you just drove my Bill Driscoll and me.  We are in Springfield for tornado recovery efforts too."
  • Highlight of today (Monday-when we are back).. text message from Kelley a woman we helped yesterday (interestingly the job, which was extensive, arose when one of the volunteers asked to use a bathroom and saw the damage in the yard.)
"God bless the angels in Brown shirts that descended on my neighborhood last weekend.  they have touched my heart beyond words. Thank you !!!!!"

We want to go back.  Looking at distance and schedules, there are not many good times. It seems our best shot to make a huge difference is this Thursday to Wednesday.  We will be looking for a place to stay in Springfield and leaders.  Especially with chain saw experience.  If we go (and it looks like AllHands will also be going) you will be able to come for as long or as short as you want.  Housing and food will be free.  The memories, new friends, and fun will last a life time!  You should seriously CHANGE your schedule to come.  It will be worth it.

We did not do paper plate awards, but if I had assigned them: 
  • Jive: The "Jay Starr organizer" and "I can carry anything award" to Jive (Dan Michael).  He somehow can organize even my messy paperwork and would not stop (especially on Saturday) hauling debris from multiple sites at once.
  • Banger: The "Hipster most likely to make millions with new designs for safety glasses"award.  With luck the glasses block amber lights.  
  • Luis:  Loverboy Award He was enamored with beautiful women at nearly every site and had an unusual desire to impress everyone by using the new longer chain saw.
  • Jeff:  He gets two: 
              Paul Bunyan Award. Every time I turned around he was dropping another damaged tree. 
              Dance Party award: for breaking into Dance every time KidzBop comes on.
  • James: Short and Sweet award.  He came, was morning MVP for his work on getting all the saws going, and then had to leave after one day, but his work on saws continued on.
  • Jerry: the unsung hero award.  Never in the spotlight, but constantly taking logs that are larger than he is out to the curb, driving, and sawing.  
  • Larry:  The Renaissance Lumberjack. I have traveled to many jobs with Larry and I do not remember him every talking on so many many subjects: From Haiti to New Orleans, from music to movies, books to Buffalo, And literally everything else.  He made the miles fly by.

Not necessarily storm related:
  • The "Yellow car" "yellow motorcycle" " yellow boat" and a rare "yellow Jet Ski" game continues to thrill!
  • It is a KidzBop World. 'nuff said.
  • First song on the radio (after KidzBop CD) was Mean.  Last song on radio as I pulled off campus was Mean. 

 (pictures will follow--I left the camera in the van):

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