Saturday, September 24, 2011

Volunteering in Binghamton

I was out of the country for a couple of days this week, volunteering in a clean up mission after the floods of a couple weeks back.  Last Sunday in church, our pastor put out a plea for volunteers to go and visit his former church  which suffered severe damage in nine foot high, raging floodwaters.

Since supply teaching is still pretty sketchy three weeks into the year, I was able to clear my schedule and show up at our church Wednesday morning, armed with my grubbies, cordless drill, exacto knives, face mask, hammer and tool belt.  Six adults and a baby, squeezed into a Dodge caravan, complete with all our tools and paraphenalia and headed south across the border.

Interesting set of questions at the border from the security guard:

"Where are you all headed?"

      "Binghamton, New York."

"What is the nature of your visit?"

     "To help remove carpet and drywall from a church that was damaged in the flooding."

"How did you get involved in this?"

     "The gentleman in the back seat was a former pastor there."

"How many days are you planning on being there?"


"What do you all expect to accomplish in that short a time?"

Stunned silence - we have no idea, but we will be working at the best of our abilities.

"Why would you bring a child with you to drywall?"

Huh?  We're starting her young!  Actually she was the pastor and his wife's baby and mom and daughter were simply going to visit the parents who are parishioners in the damaged church.

Maybe I am being too hard on the man, but come on buddy, six adults are coming in from another country to help in a zone in dire need of assistance, and you're officiously asking what we could accomplish in two short days.  I really wish we could have showed him before and after pictures of just what we did in those few hours.  Since I can't,  I will try and share with you, although I don't think there are many great 'before' pictures, and even after our efforts there was soooo much more to be done.  Problem is that is just the cleanup, then comes reconstruction.  Thank you to Heather Perry, our pastor's wife who took pictures of the process.  My camera got left in the van, and it was really not the spot to lay a camera down, amid all the wet plaster and insulation.

This is the back outside the church, note the high water/mud marks on the trees by the door.

The yellow truck was completely submerged, except for the boom.

What it looked like when we got there - all the furniture etc had already been disposed of.

Yours truly - first job - hauling scrap metal out to the pile.
Shoveling up dead drywall - note our wet shirts, that was sweat, it was incredibly humid inside the building.
This was one of my special projects - completely gutting and removing walls and partitions to two full bathrooms.
The main sanctuary with all the debris removed.
Former office area, all drywall, studs, electrical etc removed.  Note mud on windows  The high water mark was about three inches from the top of these windows.
It is far from cleaned up, but our team and several other folks, removed several truckloads of debris and recycle material in the two days we were there.  The sad part is, this is only one building among hundreds.  We drove through blocks and blocks of devastated buildings, with garbage piled high in the  sidewalks awaiting municipal trucks.  The temporary dumping area we saw was a large field, and it was filling quickly.

I am glad to have been part of such a venture, but sad that it happened to begin with.  Our group has promised that they will probably return to help in the reconstruction effort.  Hope we get the same border guard - we'll be able to tell him he'd be amazed at what a bunch of crazy Canucks can accomplish in two days.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.


  1. I'm sure the work your and your team did was very much appreciated. The building looked really nasty in the before shot, and so much better in the later shots. The people of Binghamton won't forget your kindness.

  2. We drove through Binghamton at the end of August on our return from vacationing in Maine. We were coming from daughter's home in NH and decided to take another route home rather than the usual. The flooding there and in Vermont in September was devastating. How nice of your church to help out. that's what it will take to get those places back on their feet.

  3. Bless you and your friends for pitching in and helping out. Looked like some hard work there. Let this American say --- your work was very much appreciated.

  4. A wonderful project to get involved in, well done :)

  5. I am finding crossing the border into the US increasingly tedious these days!! But you did some fine work down there. Good on you all!


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