Hundreds Turn Out To Help Waterbury Clean Up

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(Host) The town of Waterbury was hit hard by Tropical Storm Irene. Several hundred homes and businesses were severely flooded and some of the buildings may have to be destroyed.

But as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, the clean up effort in Waterbury is being fueled by a very active volunteer campaign.

(Lotspeich) "I’d like to make an announcement about debris that you’re helping to remove out of residences and businesses. We’re going to be picking up as much as that as possible with equipment with a loader going into a large trash hauler truck."

(Kinzel) That’s Waterbury Community planner Steve Lotspeich talking to a group of several hundred volunteers behind the Thatcher Brook School.

Debris is a big concern for town officials especially along South Main Street and Randall Street where there are piles of wet rugs, furniture and appliances in front of virtually every building.

The crowd is then asked to sign up for some work assignments:

(Volunteer chief) "Are you guys here to volunteer? Throw your names on those forms guys."

(Kinzel) Bill Shepeluk is Waterbury’s municipal manager. He says these volunteer groups are providing an invaluable service to the community.

(Shepeluk) "We’re organizing work groups sending them out in the committee to help with clean up operations, with food distribution, food collection so it’s been an amazing outpouring of community spirit which is so heartening to see there’s a lot of work to be done but we’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of days."

(Kinzel) The volunteers come from throughout central Vermont. There’s Montpelier physician Tony Williams:

(Williams) "And I said I have the day off And I figured I’d help out…just a strong back and I’m willing to work and I’ve got some time to help out."

(Kinzel) And high school student Meghan Burrows:

(Burrows) "Waterbury is a small community and you’ve got friends and family affected so you just want to do what you can to help. It’s pretty cool to see that even young kids want to help."

(Kinzel) Julia Austin of Huntington also felt the need to come by and help out:

(Austin) "I had taken today off a couple of weeks ago and when I saw just driving around how horrible everything looked I figured I’d could come out and get my hands dirty."

(Kinzel) Some of the workers head down to Randall Street to help out at Pam Clapp’s house where water is still being pumped out of her basement. She says the volunteers have been a godsend.

(Clapp) "We’ve had a full house of volunteers for the last 3 days. We’ve had at least 5 or 6 people all volunteers helped us take out all the sheet rock yesterday which is great we don’t have to pay for that…and right now people are in the house taking out the kitchen cabinets pulling them out to get to the sheet rock that’s there."

(Kinzel) Waterbury officials say they hope to keep this program going for the foreseeable future.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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