Iowa River continues to recede as volunteers remove sandbags from homes

Iowa City volunteer effort helps remove sandbags after nearly a month

Bryton Ostler, a student at University of Oklahoma who is originally from Iowa City, removes sandbags from a home on Nor
Bryton Ostler, a student at University of Oklahoma who is originally from Iowa City, removes sandbags from a home on Normandy Drive in Iowa City on the morning of June 22, 2013. Bryton decided to come out because he hasn't been able to find a job for the summer and has consequently been spending time volunteering. (Kaitlyn Bernauer/Gazette-KCRG)

IOWA CITY — Mosquitoes and gnats saturated the air as Ayoub Ahmed heaved sandbags from the side of a house onto the curb along Normandy Drive.

Ahmed, 38, who moved from Sudan to Iowa City two years ago, said volunteering isn’t widely practiced in Sudan. He said he volunteers as a thank you for the help he received from the government and the community during his transition to living in the United States.

“I like it (volunteering) because everyone helps each other,” he said, wiping away a little bit of sweat as it trickled down his cheek.

Ahmed was one of several volunteers to remove about 2,700 sandbags Saturday. The United Way Emergency Volunteer Center helped coordinate the effort to remove sandbags from homes along Normandy Drive, Manor Drive and Granada Court in Parkview Terrace. The sandbags were originally put into place by volunteers to protect some of the residential homes as the Iowa River inched precariously close to their back doors earlier this month. The water has since subsided, and city officials will pick up the sandbags Monday.

Christine Scheetz, president and CEO for United Way of Johnson County, said the emergency volunteer center was organized after the 2008 flood and the heavy rains that struck the area at the beginning of June gave the center an opportunity to implement its plans.

Scheetz said the effort often focused on attending to private homes and individuals who called the center’s hotline for assistance in sandbagging their homes. She said United Way coordinated with Iowa City and Johnson County officials on where their efforts were needed, and about 500 volunteers registered to volunteer through the center to sandbag during the recent flooding.

Though the 2013 heavy rains didn’t prove as treacherous as in 2008, Scheetz said it was good to have the volunteer emergency center ready to go in the early stages of flooding in case the situation became worse.

“There’s a sense of security in knowing we’re prepared and we have plans,” Scheetz said. “That we have an expectation and responsibility to do a job.”

Volunteer Jake Vanderschel, 25, said his sister told him about the need for volunteers and they decided to help out. Vanderschel said helping out was worth it despite the pesky bugs and the humidity.“If it were my house I’d hope people would help me,” he said.

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