Letter to the Editor: Volunteers and sacrifice
On Monday, Aug. 4, flash floods raged through Carbon County affecting hundreds. Amidst all the mud, damage and devastation came the small town spirit this area has perfected over the years (unfortunately) dealing with numerous tragedies in the past.
John Serfustini asked me to write this letter to the Sun Advocate regarding my experiences this week as I witnessed our community selflessly pull together to assist Helper residents in getting cleaned up.
Please know it is not my intention to leave anyone out, I really hope to get everyone who sacrificed for the good of the community in this letter.
It all started with a phone call from my cousin Rory Bradley who works as a Deputy for the Carbon County Sheriff's Office. He was telling me about the flash flooding in Helper directly flooding my home. When I asked about my neighbors he told me that one of them had been trapped in her home but that Sergeant David Brewer was able to assist her out of the basement safely.
We rushed home and began to survey the damage. As my husband Brady and I stood behind our home we were in shock. Our newly landscaped yard was under about a foot and a half of mud and water. While we stood there, numerous people stopped by our home to offer their assistance. Commissioner Casey Hopes and his sweet wife Jana, Jesse McCourt, Jason Llewelyn, Helper City Police Chief Trent Anderson and my "daddy" Dennis Branch.
Tuesday morning work started to get Helper Main Street cleaned up. Gary Harwood and his team worked through the night to get the streets and sidewalks cleaned up and free of debris and mud. I kept getting calls throughout Tuesday of people wanting to come and help so I set the meet time of Wednesday 9 a.m. Countless people from Carbon, Emery and Utah Counties came rushing in with shovels in hand ready to help. Sheriff Greg Funk from Emery County came along with five inmates and three deputies and worked for two days straight to get mud out of residents' basements.
Greg is a "boots on the ground" type of leader. He worked so hard and was covered in mud up to his knees both days as well. Jeff Wood along with his wife Emily and his father, Tom Wood came to assist along with machinery to help move the mud from neighbors' backyards. Jeff Wood also called his good friend Larry Johanson. Larry Johanson who works at the Division of Natural Resources brought his equipment and helped remove mud from properties affected.
Emily Wood was instrumental in helping me meet with homeowners and create a list of needs to relay back to Gary and the Red Cross if applicable. Jodi Mascaro messaged me offering machinery, meals or whatever else was needed. Kirk Mascaro and his son McCade worked several days pushing mud from resident's homes. Heele (Mascaro) Eden and her little daughter shoveled mud from sidewalks. Clay, Cindy and daughters along with Angel from the Balance Rock not only worked with shovels but donated truckloads of buckets to be used to remove mud from basements. A group from Price Chapel came and cleaned four homes with just their little group!
Tom Matthews of Spring Glen came with his tractor and worked to pull mud from driveways. He also made phone calls to get surrounding businesses there with their water trucks and pumps. PRWID came with their trucks and crews, Price City with the same. Virginia from Price City Laundry came and offered to do laundry for any victims who were pulling out blankets, clothing, towels etc from the mud.
Pacificorp sent numerous trucks and crews to assist with cleaning out the storm drains and the underpass. Helper City Police Chief Trent Anderson came with inmates from the Carbon County Jail to assist in shoveling out the mud as well.
Carbon High Drill Team, Carbon High Cheerleaders and Helper Jr. High Cheerleaders also came in handy when helping tearful residents gently go through their belongings to sift out the mud and salvage what they could. Mark Morley, LDS Bishop in Spring Glen, notified me of sand bags being filled in the county and arranged for truck loads to be taken to Helper.
Russ Wilkenson, Antoinette Powell and many others continued to bring sand bags until homes in Helper were protected. Paul Pugliese with Tire King came and picked up my husband's patrol car, which was right in the path of the rushing water and mud, Wednesday afternoon. He and his men were able to get it cleaned up, working again and had it dropped off in time for his shift that night.
Charles Colacito Jr. with Helper Towing was not only a victim himself but helped others with his tow truck as well. On the second day of clean up my phone quit working due to the dusty, muddy, humid conditions. My uncle Don Mundell took it to Lacey at the Sprint store who was able to get me switched to a phone with all of my contacts so I could continue to communicate with everyone and coordinate our volunteers most effectively.
I would like to thank the Helper City Police Department for their support and concern of our family. Chief Anderson and Detective Boyer were lifesavers for me more than once this week and I can't thank them enough. I would like to thank my little sisters Emily and Kati Branch and my mother Lisa Branch for dropping everything and coming Wednesday to help me coordinate all the volunteers to be most effective.
I want to quickly thank my in-laws Barry and Marleen Andreason, my friends Sarah Bradley and Joy Malone for personally helping with my children so I could focus on my neighbors. I want to thank Gary Harwood, Ed Chavez, Chris Pugliese and Jason Llewelyn for answering my calls, texts and requests to help the residents of Helper.
I also want to thank Chris and Stephanie Pugliese for offering their home to Brady and me so we could get a good night sleep Tuesday night.
Judy Cox with the Red Cross was so sweet and helpful with managing my sign in sheets to help keep track of the countless volunteers. All of the Red Cross volunteers were so helpful by providing ice cold water and snacks for all homeowners and volunteers.
Russ Wilkenson and his wife Rachel were great to assist the Red Cross with coordinating donations for meals. Walmart, Fresh Market, Smiths, McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Time, KFC, Arby's, Marsha's, Pepsi and Balance Rock all donated food to keep our volunteers and families in need fed. We also had individual donations from families including food, cases of water, shovels, gloves etc...
I need to thank Matt Montoya for bringing me "real boots" after I had already ruined two pairs of my tennis shoes trying to walk through the muck. Various people and businesses from the community showed their support in their own special ways including Living Balance Studios, Howas, Shane Garcia, Doug Rhinehart, Ben and Pacificorp.
I was so impressed to hear that the men working with Pacificorp had volunteered for the overtime shifts and were a little disappointed the basements were all cleaned out. These men were prepared to be knee deep in mud just to help residents. I'm thankful for our landlords Sam and Jennifer Chiara who were quick to respond and get our water heater and furnace serviced.
We are so lucky to have them as landlords! Brad King and his wife delivered cleaning kits donated from the LDS church. These kits were so helpful to all of us in getting the mud cleaned up! Juvenile Probation Officers were also out here in Helper with a group of teens working hard shoveling mud.
Terilyn Ramos gave me Nancy Bentley's phone number which was given to any elderly or disabled residents so she could direct them to an advocate here in Carbon County which took applications over the phone to get them qualified for assistance which would go towards replacement water heaters, furnaces etc.
I now have the information that Marilyn Vogrenic is the point of contact for any income eligible residents with disabilities call 435-637-5444 extension 402.
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone listed above and any I unintentionally missed. Thanks to Helper City, Price City, Carbon County and Emery County coming together we were able to help my neighbors here on Helper Main Street with their basements and yards. I also need to thank my husband Brady in being supportive as I rallied our community to assist our neighbors. He was so patient with me through all of my late night phone calls and late night porch meetings with City and County officials. Although Brady and I have focused our efforts here on Main Street, we haven't forgotten about all the other areas flooded. We truly hope all those affected in other areas had as much of a response as we did. We wish you all the best in your rebuilding efforts.