Memoirs of a Volunteer

 

VOLUNTEERING. . .DAY 1 

         Today a group of us were designated to offer assistance to a homeowner who lost his home & belongings in the fire that raged through Alta Lake. Our group's job today was "sifting." This is a dirty job, involving screens, buckets, shovels, masks, gloves, safety glasses, & endless dust reeking of old fire. Any object, regardless of size, quality, or "intactness" discovered in the sifting & picking was to be set aside for our 2 younger guys to organize on a separate tarp. These treasures would be saved for the homeowner to later go through.  Our homeowner arrived sometime during those morning hours, chatting with us, & eventually made his way to the tarp. He was thankful that an fully intact ceramic bunny had been recovered; that was all he took away today.  
         A woman next door also lost her home & everything in it.  She was seen alone on her property while we were at her neighbor's "home."  Before too long, several from our group moved over to her home to lend a much needed hand in the digging.  I noticed, too, that she was eager just to have the company & conversation. 
    The woman living on the other side of "our man" is fortunate- her house is standing, although she is living on a generator & lost her shed.  All but 3 homes are completely gone on that far side of the golf course.  Driving along that road later, viewing the scene of home after home reduced to nothing but rubble took my breath away. I lost count. No words come to mind to accurately describe this aftermath. 
        We attempted to go down to the lake after our work was finished for the day. The campground, where we had enjoyed so many weekends over the years- so many cherished memories- is now blocked from public access and is not operational as a result of fire damage. 
        We left for home with somewhat of a sense of fulfilled purpose in giving just a small portion of aid to these poor people today; I was so proud of my boys & all the young guys who worked, worked, worked. I left a changed person, wishing I could stay longer, but resolving to return ASAP to continue where we left off...
        Prayers continue for these people & this community as they begin the arduous process of shoveling out & rebuilding...

VOLUNTEERING. . .DAY 2

    What a great day our group experienced today, having the privilege of assisting 3 homeowners at Alta Lake, and right on the shore, at that! The other day, the boys and I could not get to the lake via the campground (because of closure) but, behold, today we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of one of my favorite lakes all day while working our tails off!  The area today is situated along the shore almost opposite the beach area of the campground.  All 4 homes on this end of the road are gone.  We worked on 3.  

    Today's tasks included felling a number of trees surrounding 2 of these "homes" (1 of our leaders is a tree felling expert!).  Then the teen guys helped move, drag, & roll the huge pieces away from our debris piles.  We gals (2 of us) got in & removed more metal than I ever want to see again! These homes all had metal roofs. The scene was reminiscent of the aftermath of a tornado with twisted, gnarled metal strewn absolutely everywhere.  The 3rd house's metal roof simply collapsed atop the rubble resting very "neatly" over the remaining foundation.  This roof, being fully intact, required more work of separating the metal sheets prior to removal.  

    We got to know the 1st home's owner, Rich.  He truly enjoyed chatting with us, hanging out with us all day, & was so amazed that our kids were there to lend them a hand. Several moments became emotional for him, while talking, struggling to hold back a tear.  The 2nd homeowners, likewise, were thankful for the extra presence of help today.  The wife also fought back the tears while sharing her story with us.  You see, not only did they lose the family summer home (where we worked that day), but ALSO their main residence along the golf course! They had been in Hawaii on vacation @ the time that the fire hit. There was nothing they could do, nothing that family could have retrieved, nothing- except hang by the phone waiting for any updates from family as the hours ticked by many, many miles away. They lost everything- minus the luggage that accompanied them to Hawaii. The 3rd homeowner was not home there today.  

    The fringe benefit of our designated location today provided immediate water relief in the 100+ degree temperatures.  One of my sons & I just simply walked straight into the lake to cool off! Wet clothing & shoes felt quite splendid today! I am so proud of the boys today- working like men, never complaining. I truly think they enjoyed ever minute of the hard work today. And, hats off to the leaders of our group; these guys are incredible & their hearts are huge. Today was a blessing for us.