Volunteers who pitched in during record flooding among many honored

NOW: Volunteers who pitched in during record flooding among many honored

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Hundreds of volunteers were honored Wednesday evening for going out of their way to help clean up in the wake of the record February flooding.

“Volunteers just [want to] do, and they don’t ask for anything in return,” said Anna Murphy, President and CEO of United Ways of Southwest Michigan. “They just want to know that what they are doing makes a difference.”

Wednesday at the Heritage Center in St. Joseph, many local volunteers were honored for their commitment to service throughout the year.

While the event highlighted volunteers from all walks of life, it recognized the more than 600 people who helped during the devastating flooding across Michiana back in February.

It was a call for help that Berrien Springs Township Supervisor Mike Hildebrand thought would bring out 25, 50, or maybe 100 volunteers tops.

To his surprise, more than 300 people turned out to help their neighbors.

“You aren’t sure whether you’re [going to] have a dozen people or a hundred people, but they just kept coming and kept showing up,” said Hildebrand.

A video that was shown at Wednesday’s ceremony showed how caring people came to help with flooding recovery efforts.

According to the United Way of Southwest Michigan, more than 600 volunteers from across Berrien County pitched in to assist those affected by the floods in hard hit Berrien Springs and Niles.

They put in over 1800 man-hours of community service in the matter of two days.

“Just seeing this wave of volunteers walking down the driveway, finding homeowners, people who were impacted, and saying ‘how can we help? Lead the way and we’re going to help you out,’” said Hildebrand.

He was describing how volunteers were doing things as simple as comforting those affected, to lifting heavy and wet furniture, and helping clear away debris, which went a long way in just 48 hours.

“We filled 20 dumpsters over the course of 2 days,” said Hildebrand.

As kids, we are always told volunteering is something we should do, and it appears all the people at Wednesday evening’s ceremony and those who helped in flood relief, took that lesson to heart.

“Complete strangers, no direct connection to this neighborhood,” said Hildebrand. “It’s just people who want to help.” People who make a difference in someone’s life, right when they need it most.

Awards presented at the ceremony are below:

  • Pat Winans – Emerging Volunteer Award Recipient
  • Margaret O’Neill – Sustaining Volunteer Award Recipient
  • Kailey Skarbek of Niles High School – Live United Youth Scholarship Recipient
  • Nick Bradley of Edwardsburg High School – Live United Youth Scholarship Recipient
  • Jerry Flenar of Buchanan – 2018 Margaret B. Upton Volunteer Leadership Award Recipient
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