This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

MDS volunteers shovel out New York neighbors

Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers often describe their service as being the hands and feet of Jesus. In late November those hands — and backs — were working hard, shoveling the historic snowfall in New York.

Volunteers from Drayton, Ont., shovel snow off a dairy barn roof near West Seneca, N.Y. — Paul Hunt/MDS
Volunteers from Drayton, Ont., shovel snow off a dairy barn roof near West Seneca, N.Y. — Paul Hunt/MDS

More than 300 MDS volunteers and their snow shovels descended on several snowed-in areas of New York beginning Nov. 21. They worked to save roofs and help homeowners clear massive snowdrifts.

Volunteers came from nearby in New York, and many crossed the border from Ontario to help their neighbors in the West Sen­eca area. Forty-one volunteers drove six hours from Grantsville, Md.

MDS Early Response Team coordinator Glenn Weiler of Wolcott, N.Y., reported that volunteers worked in trailer courts, shoveling snow off trailer roofs. They cleared driveways and walkways for elderly and handicapped people and did some sandbagging in preparation for possible flooding. They also worked at two farms, clearing off massive barn roofs.

“There were lots of elderly people and [local contractors] charging them $400 to $800 to clean off their roofs,” Weiler said of work at the trailer park. “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’s good we were there.”

David Martin of Drayton, Ont., and a group of 27 volunteers got up early to drive to New York. Their group shoveled the roof of a dairy barn.

“It’s a heart of compassion that brings us out to help people in need,” he said. “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.

Delmar Rutt of Savannah, N.Y., and Chris Lepp of Beamsville, Ont., helped Weiler coordinate volunteers and jobs referred to MDS by local fire companies, the Red Cross, New York Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster 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.

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