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Volunteer effort underway in Sanford to clean up leftover flood debris

The United Way of Midland County is teaming up with Team Dow and other groups and organizations to bring volunteers to the village for its Day of Action.
The United Way of Midland County is working with other groups to put on the clean-up event in...
The United Way of Midland County is working with other groups to put on the clean-up event in Sanford.(Colton Cichoracki WJRT)
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 3:57 PM EDT
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SANFORD, Mich. (WJRT) - More than a year after last year’s dam failures and flooding, the clean-up effort continues in Sanford and a big volunteer effort just got underway.

The United Way of Midland County is teaming up with Team Dow and other groups and organizations to bring volunteers to the village for its Day of Action, which will run through July 31.

The goal is to wrap up some of the community’s debris removal that still needs to happen more than a year after the flood.

“One year plus after the flood it can be very easy to think that recovery is over and that we’ve recovered but recovery efforts are ongoing,” said Holly Miller, president and CEO of the United Way of Midland County. “Today is really a testament to that.”

Miller said she expects over 300 volunteers to work in the Sanford community over the next few days to help with debris removal.

“There are still homes that are being worked on, there are still people who are displaced from their homes for recovery and there are still great needs out here,” she said. “We also take a moment to pause and celebrate the recovery efforts and how many people are back in their homes, and how many people are back to a sense of normal.”

Last year’s dam failures led to catastrophic damage in Sanford. On Scott Harris’ property, he lost three buildings to the flood.

Volunteers worked to remove some of that debris that remained on Harris’ property Wednesday morning.

“We’ve had a building that we lost during the flood, one of a couple of them but we’ve had a couple of bouts with cleaning it up and hopefully we’re on the last leg of that,” he said.

Harris owns a building company and said that he has been on both ends of the spectrum. His property was damaged but he is also helping people rebuild.

“We’re working on another project for a gal that’s kind of in her house but she’s not really there,” Harris said. “We’re not 100% but you know, she’s coping.”

Harris said now that we are more than 14 months from the flood, he’s more than ready for things to return to normal.

“You just go to bed with it every night,” he said. “No weekends, nothing. No relaxation but we got to deal with it so that’s what we are trying to do.”

This clean-up event will last through Saturday with two volunteer shifts each day. One of the event’s organizers and volunteers is Sanford resident Megan Clark.

Clark said seeing so many people come to Sanford a year plus later is a testament to the community.

“Really it’s a sense of community pride,” she said. “We’ve been seeing our businesses come back, we’ve been seeing our residents come back and we want this to be a nice place for people to come and live and recreate and just find some pride and joy.”

Clark has been volunteering and has coordinated many recovery efforts over the last year. She said she does it for her community and her kids.

“One of them was 3 years old when the flood happened so that’s basically going to be all of his memories is that this is what this community is so to bring back that hope and that sense of belonging and community,” she said.

Anyone interested in volunteering during this event can find more information here.

Miller said giving back in this way is in the nature of the people that live in the Midland County area.

“I think today’s event and the activities for the past year, really speaks to the heart of our community and the way that people just kind of come together to help,” she said. “It is part of our culture and it is something we never take for granted.”

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