Sixteen members of the Colfax community are currently hard at work in the Queens and Brooklyn boroughs of New York City. The volunteers left Jasper County on March 23 and will return March 31.
The group, mostly composed of firefighters, is in New York City to help rebuild the homes of firefighters that were damaged during Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012. The hurricane traveled over seven countries, killed approximately 285 people and caused an estimated $42 million in damage in New York State alone, making it more “impactful” than Hurricane Katrina, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“The trip is very rewarding so far. Yeah, it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s well worth it,” Colfax firefighter and trip organizer Eric Harmison said. “If it was closer to Iowa, I’m sure all of us would be back out here again.”
Many fire departments from across the nation have been making a similar move to visit and assist in New York, reinforcing the idea of a global community that is so often seen engaged in disaster relief.
“We first started thinking about it back during the hurricane … we knew it was something they’d need,” Harmison said. “You think of the floods and all the help we got here in Colfax, and you feel grateful … Now we can do that for another community.”
The volunteers are bunking in a retired fire station dating back to 1797. The old station is operated by Friends of Firefighters, a non-profit organization founded after the events of September 11, 2001 to assist firefighters and their families.
Temperatures and weather have been comparable to Iowa for the volunteers so far. The temperatures have held around 40 degrees and they have received a mix of snow and rain over the last few days.
The volunteers have had very little time for recreation on the trip so far. Despite many of them having to use their vacation time for this opportunity, the trip is anything but a vacation according to Harmison. For now, they will have to enjoy the camaraderie of their friends and fellow volunteers.
However, Harmison does hope that members of the group will be able to find the time to visit the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum located in the former location of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, also known as Ground Zero.
Attendees on the trip are Eric Harmison, Brittany Harmison, Ron Gearhart, Scott Beason, Austin Beason, Dennis Lester, Tim Titus, Chance Titus, J.D. Smith, Caleb Smith, Laurie Pierce, Sue Harrison, Rick Beals, Jamie Jeter and Alan Reed.
The trip was made possible due to a number of contributors in the community. Among these are Dee Zee Manufacturing, MKMD Restaurant Partners, DBA, Burger King, Karl Chevrolet, Bob Brown Chevrolet, Bill Harmison, Layton Miller, Christian Church in Colfax, Altec Utility Trucks, Mike and Terry Gilbert and many anonymous donors.