Radio Calls, Tarps and BBQ's
I traveled in the group focusing on roofs. We started the day by distributing some supplies around Drummond Park, where we had stopped the day before. The residents were so glad to see us back, and this time we had some fresh ice and more infant formula, which we had run out of the day before. We then went to rendezvous with some other vehicles around Gene’s Oyster Bar to confirm our plans.
Our plan was to peruse some neighborhoods around Gene’s that we knew were in need of some tarps; however, we were listening to 92.5, and we heard a gentlemen come on the radio pleading for help. He explained that his brother’s home had been damaged by a tree and it had destroyed the roof where his two sons slept. The boys suffered from a rare disease and their care was best managed at home, but they need a tarp over their house so they could bring them back from a shelter. The home was located around 19th and Sherman; we decided to make it our first stop.
The drive was a little longer than we planned – it took about 5 mins. We thought some other folks may beat us to it, and we considered turning around, but we followed through. When we arrived on the street, it was difficult to make out the addresses because there were so many down trees. We saw a man in front of his home, and we asked him if they had put out the call on the radio about the two boys. It wasn’t him, but he directed us to where we needed to go.
The house was a trailer, probably about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide. It was surrounded by fallen trees with what looked like a destroyed shed on one side, and more trees with a mechanic’s business totally devastated on the other side. The trailer had an old rotted wooden walkway that had been loosened by an uprooted tree. Another tree laid on the section of the house facing the road, and you could see the metal scraps of the roof sticking up all around. Two of the friendliest pitbull-looking dogs were sitting on the porch and greeted us when we met one of the brothers upon our arrival. He was so glad to see us.
There were 3 brothers in all who lived in the immediate area. One of the brothers lived in what I had mistaken for the crushed shack. The brothers explained they tried to ride Michael out in the trailer, but when the tree fell through the room, they ran to the shack-house. The shack then came crashing down with them inside, and they were afraid they may have to brave the storm in the elements. Fortunately, there was a small church almost directly across the street where they were able to take cover. Now that they had all survived, all they wanted to do was repair the trailer so they could bring the two young boys back home. We set to work on the roof.
It took us about 3.5 hours to do the job. First, we had to prepare the roof that was left so we could lay the tarp. We found a number of wooden boards around that did the job. We also had to cut back the tree that had fallen on the house, and we took the time to repair the walkway as well.
Meanwhile, a few of our volunteers went inside the house and helped to straighten up the room. It was no easy task. Insulation from the ceiling was everywhere, along with broken bits of roof, and some of the boys clothes and toys were soaked and littered around the room. We filled about four trash bags with stuff, three to be thrown away, and one to be saved and everything washed. Once the roof was prepared, and the room was cleaned, we were ready to lay the tarp.
The finished roof looked so much better than how we found it, and we were even able to lend the church across the street a couple tarps to patch up their roof. The brothers were so happy about our arrival, and we were so glad we decided to respond to the radio call. The whole time we were there working, no one else ever showed up.
Afterward, we traveled over to see how the BBQ and distribution center was going on with our other group members. We were proud to see about 15 community members relaxing and eating with our team. I took the time to chat with some of the residents, and I helped pack some boxes of food items, cleaning supplies and toilet paper for a grandfather and his daughter to take home with them for the rest of their family.
We then went to work on one more roof based on a tip from one of our local contacts. It turned out to be the home of an older man who lived by himself with his old friendly dog that came up to greet us. The man already had the tarps himself, but he was unable to fix them to his roof. A large portion of his house had survived the storm, although one room that was partitioned to the side of the house, had been totally opened up to the elements. He had resigned to let that section go, and he wanted us to focus on securing the tarp on the rest of the house.
It took us about two hours for this job, as the roof was more prepared for the tarp than our previous one. Not to mention, four of us were able to get on his roof at the same time; it was sketchy for even one person to stand on the roof of the trailer. By the end, the man was quite appreciative of our work, and he told us he wished he could give us some fish since he was a fisherman. Unfortunately, his boat was crushed by trees in the yard. Instead, he showed us pictures of his family and shook our hands.
We went back to the distribution center and were glad to see there were very few supplies left. The group reported they easily served over 100 people that day. A number of volunteers stayed back to keep handing out goods, but it was time for my vehicle to head home – until next time.
Reported by Chad Zibelman, CEO of The Sonder Project
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