Photo: Volunteers from Drayton, ON, Canada, shovel snow off the roof of a dairy barn near West Seneca, NY. Photo by Paul Hunt.
Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers often describe their service as being “the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Last weekend, those hands, and backs were working hard, shoveling the historic snowfall in New York.
Over 300 MDS volunteers armed with snow shovels descended on several snowed-in areas of New York beginning Nov 21. They worked to save roofs and help homeowners clear the massive snow drifts from their properties.
Volunteers came from nearby in New York and many volunteers crossed the border from Ontario to help their neighbors in the West Seneca, NY, area. A group of 41 MDS volunteers also drove six hours from Grantsville, Md., to help with the work.
MDS Early Response Team (ERT) coordinator, Glenn Weiler, of Wolcott, NY.., reported that volunteers were working in trailer courts, shoveling snow off trailer roofs. They cleared driveways and walkways for elderly and handicapped persons and did some sandbagging in preparation for possible flooding. They also worked at two farms, clearing off massive barn roofs.
Weiler reported that at the trailer park, “There were lots of elderly people and (local contractors) were charging them $400 to $800 to clean off their roofs. When we came through and did it for free, they thought we were angels. They kept asking if it was free, and what was the catch? They were flabbergasted that we would do this work for free.”
“It was a good thing,” he added. “It’s good we were there.”
David Martin, of Drayton, ON, and a group of 27 volunteers got up early to drive to NY. Their group shoveled off the roof of a dairy barn.
When asked why they came, Martin answered, “It’s a heart of compassion that brings us out to help people in need. We feel it’s part of the teaching of Christ to help our neighbors.” Even if the neighbors are two hours and a border crossing away.
MDS volunteers and ERT member Delmar Rutt, Savannah, N.Y., and volunteer Chris Lepp, Beamsville, ON, helped Weiler coordinate volunteers and jobs that were referred to them by local fire companies, the Red Cross, N.Y. Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and a local agricultural organization.
The help was a relief for homeowners who faced the seemingly insurmountable task of removing up to six feet of snow from their properties. The volunteers were thanked over and over again, and the messages of thanks continue to pour into the MDS Facebook page.
MDS continues to be in touch with local officials to respond to future needs.