…And the help just keeps on coming…
Downstate teens provide flood relief during summer break
HOUGHTON — Help from all over Michigan continues to pour into the Copper Country.
A group of 34 high school students accompanied by six parent volunteers arrived Monday to help with the effort to recover from the June 17 flash flood.
The group is partnered with National Relief Network (NRN), a nonprofit organization that helps groups provide volunteer aid in federal and state disaster areas.
Natalie Walton, 15, was in one of three groups of teenagers from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Dexter. On Tuesday she was helping local homeowner Eric Ollis, who lives with his wife and two kids about a mile north from where the bridge was washed out on Paradise Road.
Water rushing across the front of his property on June 17 washed out his driveway, much of his yard, and even caused some foundation issues in his house.
“Half of the ditch was basically created by the storm,” Ollis said.
He took the day off to help coordinate the work, as well as working with a borrowed tractor to handle some of the heavier digging.
The teens were shaping the ditch, replacing topsoil and spreading grass seed during what is normally their summer vacation.
“It’s fun to do something that makes a difference, too,” Walton said, leaning on a shovel.
The group raised their own funds for the trip by selling refreshments at church on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, collecting donations through a website and holding special collections at church services.
The teens were also helped by an anonymous donor from their church, who gave $100 per person toward the trip.
The majority of that money goes to pay for transportation and tools, and the remaining 18 percent goes to administration costs, according Scott Harding, founder and CEO of NRN.
Lunches for the group were provided by St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church in Houghton. Michigan Technological University is providing boarding, as well as breakfasts and dinners.
“That’s normally something we provide ourselves,” said Harding. “I cannot tell you how nice it is to be able to have a bed on these trips.”
Harding said usually they sleep in a gymnasium on air mattresses.
He also said the city of Houghton has been incredibly hospitable, and he plans on returning next week with another group of volunteers.