Thousands of volunteers aid city’s rebuilding effort

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Wearing high-visibility vests, hundreds of volunteers registered at the city’s Ice Arena and were supervised by members of the Department of Homeland Security’s Indiana Incident Response Team.

“It’s a town that I grew up surfing in and it needs to survive,” said volunteer Jordan Vega, a Manhattan resident. “We just went to the Rec Center — this was the big volunteer weekend; there were no problems getting into Long Beach with ID’s or road closures.”

Vega was among those who tore down soggy sheetrock and cleared debris from a residents’ basement on Magnolia Boulevard. He and others said that those interested in signing up for such work should wear the appropriate protective gear.

“Anyone who had boots was assigned to removing sheetrock, shoveling sand and things like that, but there was also kids and families picking up debris on the streets,” he said. “There was definitely a sense of unity …”

McNally, who also participated in the volunteer effort, is among those West End residents whose homes were seriously damaged.

“My block was one of the ones that had six-feet of sand and five-feet of water,” McNally said. “I was talking to my contractor and I’m not moving back into my house until 2013. It would be really easy to give up, and there are going to be a lot of people without a support structure who are going to do that, and they need assistance.”

He said that his neighbors and local businesses have galvanized since the storm to help each other clear out their homes.

“A lot of it has already shifted — that first week in the West End was all about shoveling sand,” he said. “We had what was our 20-foot high sand dune on our street, and it was like that in a lot of the West End. And then it transitioned to, ‘OK, you have to get your carpets out,’ and there were people helping you rip out your carpets and throw out your furniture. I think this past weekend was the last weekend of full-scale [demolition], gutting houses and getting rid of your possessions. The next phase is going to be rebuilding.”

McNally said that the volunteer effort meant that homeowners could complete the work of clearing out their homes in a matter of hours instead of weeks.

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