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Mantecan helps with Maine flood clean up thru church relief effort
Manteca resident Julie Prestwood helping out with flood clean-up in Maine.
In May, I was part of a group of seven people from California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief who went to Maine to help with clean-up from the March 10 New England flood.  Most of us are retired people from all over California who had taken Disaster Relief Training Classes.  

We were originally scheduled to go to Rhode Island, but the New England Southern Baptist Convention decided we were more needed in Maine.  I had some experience cleaning up after Manteca’s 1997 flooding and some us in the group had been to states affected by Hurricane Katrina.  Others had helped after other disasters including 9-11.

Our organization got involved in the following way.  When a person in New England encounters a disaster in which they need help, they can call 211 to request help.  That is a government phone number.  They refer people to agencies that can help, like Southern Baptist Relief.  Some cities in California have this phone number hooked up (like Los Angeles).

Most of the people who had their basements flooded in Maine had their electricity go off resulting in their sump pumps not working to pump water out of their basements.  Only one person that we helped lived by a river that rose and flooded their basement.   We heard stories of not being able to get generators running again.  Also not being able to cook, doing dishes and washing hair in the family dough boy pool. And of course, we heard of the loss of possessions.   We were asked to do thirteen basements.  We were there for only eight days after travel and we managed to complete nine and the state team completed one.  One person cancelled leaving only two left for the state team to finish.

Had to clean out basements
In order to clean, first we put masks on our faces so we wouldn’t breathe in the mold.  Then we had to remove all the things that were stored in the basement if the owner had not already done so.  We did this on about half the homes.  Large appliances were taken up the basement stairs on a dolly. One basement was completely full of things stacked at least five feet high.  We started by making an assembly line and passing things from the basement up to the ground level where they went in a save pile or the very large dumpster.  That was the team’s hardest day as we were bending over a lot and lifting many bags, furniture and other things.  

One time I went to pick something up and a mouse ran out from underneath.  Needless to say, I shrieked and stepped back as he ran away.   The bottom layer was wet so we shoveled up what was left.  Then we would sweep the floor.  If the house had mold on the sheetrock we usually cut out up to two feet --above the flood line.  We followed that up by bagging all the pieces of sheetrock for trash and sweeping again.  We also removed screws and nails sticking out of the wood.  Then one person would power-wash the walls and ceiling.  The rest of the team used brooms and squeegees to get the excess water to the sump pump.  Another person vacuumed up the water that was left.  Then one of the team sprayed bleach on the walls and floor to kill the mold.  The basement was left to dry.  (All our equipment came from a trailer belonging to Maine’s Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.)

In a different basement job, part of our group removed two layers of linoleum.  In another, we had to take down insulation.  Four of our group put on haz-mat suits.  They went in the three and a half foot crawl space to retrieve loose foam insulation from a previous job.  Then two of them cut down strips of the insulation.  Two more carried it to us in the five foot root cellar that was part of the basement.  The rest of us rolled up the strips of insulation, duct taped them and put them in trash bags which we took up to ground level.  The lady who owned this house said she had had three floods out of the five years she had lived there.  No one told her when she moved there that she would have flood problems.

On our biggest job, our seven team members worked seven and a quarter hours.  If you multiply that together you get over fifty-one hours of work on one home.  That’s a lot of clean up time for any homeowner.  Many of the people we helped had physical ailments preventing them from doing the clean up so they appreciated our help. The things that they had stored and lost resulted in a time of mourning and the Chaplain on our team talked to them.  When we finished the work our group would pray with them if they were willing.

On our last day of work, the homeowners left on our list could not accommodate us so we went to a church member’s house to help.  He needed seven trees felled.  One person in our group is a contractor.  He had experience felling trees.  These trees were fifty to eighty feet high.  He instructed us on how it was done.  Then he proceeded to cut all seven down so they fell in a forty foot area between the house and a lot of trees.  We were amazed!  The church members will cut up the trees for a needy family in their church.

We worked hard when we were there, but we did take Sunday off.  We went to see Nubble Point Lighthouse in Cape Neddick.  My brother lives in New Hampshire which was about an hour away.  He and his wife came to visit me.  It was nice because we hadn’t seen each other in three years.

When we left, we heard other Baptist Relief teams were flying in on the next Monday from other states to clean up in the state of Rhode Island.  We were glad to have done our part and went home for a much need rest.