WARREN, Mich. – AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, serves communities across America. When the call came to assist Michiganders affected by the August flooding, more than 30 AmeriCorps members were called into action. Members are in Michigan assisting homeowners with mucking out hundreds of homes damaged during the storm.
AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team members are tearing out ruined drywall and paneling, ripping up sodden carpets and linoleum, and hauling out damaged refrigerators and cabinets. They are piling up mounds of debris from basement kitchens, bedrooms and areas where residents stored photos, heirlooms and other treasures. They are removing mold when they find it, after donning protective gear.
Some 368 cubic yards of debris was removed from homes in the first week this team was on the ground. Their work is particularly difficult as the deluge in mid-August that shut down some freeways and roadways for days also caused sewer system backups throughout Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
“The work AmeriCorps is doing is vital,” said Michigan State Police Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, State Coordinating Officer and Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “They are helping those disaster survivors who need it most.”
Residents in need of assistance are calling 211 to request a free home cleanup.
“Priority is being given to the elderly, disabled and others whose circumstances make it difficult for them to do it themselves,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph A. Diemont.
AmeriCorps members work long hours, sometimes barely stopping for lunch, although Norma Eggman, 22, said she appreciated the pizza from one thankful homeowner. Her day starts early and ends late. The work of mopping out basements and smashing ruined furniture is hard, but Eggman is proud of what she and her team are doing.
“I’m proud to serve and I’m excited to be doing this work,” Eggman said.
Eggman is an AmeriCorps member with the Arizona Conservation Corps. She and her teammates piled into a van and drove for three days to Michigan. AmeriCorps members with the Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, Montana Conservation Corps and Texas Conservation
Corps also are in Michigan helping flood survivors. Members include residents of those five states and others from Georgia, Idaho, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
“The national service family is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with those in southeast Michigan,” said Kelly DeGraff, senior advisor for Disaster Services at the Corporation for National and Community Service. “AmeriCorps members are here to not only provide vital services, but hope and comfort to those in need.”
AmeriCorps members are housed at a local monastery. They will work in Michigan for about a month before returning to their jobs doing trail maintenance, stream restoration and other conservation measures. Other AmeriCorps teams rotate in so the work flow in Michigan is not interrupted.
Crew leader Alexandra Breant, 24, and her team recently mucked out a retired widow’s home. The team carried sodden items outside and then Breant sat down to talk with the woman.
“There were things she didn’t want to let go of,” said Breant of Phoenix. “I needed to be compassionate and understanding, as this was someone’s life.”
Breant echoed the sentiment of many AmeriCorps members. “It is an honor and an opportunity to be able to help Michigan residents,” she said..
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