OWEGO, N.Y. — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assembled nearly 400 members and friends from several cities in central New York at Owego, N.Y., on Sept. 17, 18 and 24 for a massive cleanup effort to more than 150 homes in Owego, Binghamton, Conklin, Endicott, Kirkwood, Lounsberry, Tioga Center and Nichols, N.Y., all in the Owego New York Stake.
Included in the cleaning were the Tioga County Museum and Historical Society Building in Owego and a large farm at Nichols. The volunteers, ranging in age from teens to seniors in their 60s and 70s, worked from early morning until late afternoon. They removed mud from homes, garages and barns. They hauled buckets of mud up narrow stairways in darkened basements and worked together to carry mud to the street with smiles on their faces.
Before the cleanup, 60 senior missionaries from across the United States who are serving at the Palmyra New York Temple canvassed the area and asked property owners if they would like to have volunteers come to help clean their homes. All of those who received help expressed gratitude to the volunteers, some with tears in their eyes. It was obvious that some of the homeowners could not afford to pay for such services.
“These kids are great... a godsend,” said Betty Jo Bogart, who lives on John Street in Owego, where a group of teen volunteers cleaned her basement.
Ann and Grant Scott, who live on Front Street in Owego, where a group from Rochester and Palmyra served, were thankful. Ann Scott said, “I am so happy. They saved me so much work. They are a blessing. They are so efficient.”
Joe and Bridget Kane and their son Michael, who live on Academy Street in Owego, said, “It got done because you came.”
At the Engelbert Farm near Nichols, about 20 Helping Hands volunteers served. The farm is large with multiple barns and hundreds of cows. The helpers trudged through ankle-deep mud, shoveled mud out of cow stalls, unwrapped white plastic from spoiled hay bales and emptied spoiled feed bags.
A worker who was not a member of the LDS Church commented, “You guys were already organized for such an emergency long before the rains ever showed up on the radar.”
On the way home, one volunteer teenager said, “It felt good to help those people.”
Donn Ianuzi is on the Owego New York Stake public affairs committee.