Volunteers from as far away as Hays, Kan., gathered Saturday morning to squeegee mud, power wash chairs and clean up other remnants and debris from flooding in the village of Arlington and at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
The Washington County Fair Board and the Village of Arlington officials joined forces for a cleanup day.
Fair Board President Jason Cloudt said that once the floodwaters receded, Fair Board members and associate members initially concentrated on the Rybin Building and buildings with drywall to get them dried out.
On Saturday, the board’s goal was to expand the cleanup into all or at least the majority of the buildings, playground and garden spaces. Throughout the morning, teams of volunteers scooped out and power washed mud and water from the exhibit buildings and cleaned up debris.
Cloudt said he was pleased with the hard work and efforts of the nearly 100 volunteers. The majority of the volunteers who were raking, cleaning and spraying were from the greater Washington County area.
Then there was Connie Smith, who drove from her home in Hays, Kan., on Friday to take part in the cleanup.
Smith said she was at home watching television and saw a story about a nurse who wanted to help Nebraska flood victims.
“I looked at my TV and said, 'I can do that. There’s nothing holding me back,'” she told herself.
Smith contacted pastor Glen Hudson at Country Bible Church in Blair, who encouraged her to help. Smith drove from Kansas to Blair on Friday and planned to return home after the weekend. At the end of the month, she plans to travel with a team to continue to help.
After meeting at the fairgrounds to receive marching orders and grab a bite of breakfast provided by St. Paul's Lutheran Church, some of volunteers drove to Bell Creek Park to pick up corn stalks and flood debris along walk ways.
Arlington Board of Trustees Chairman Paul Krause said he was excited to see so many people out helping. He was also thankful for all of the people donating their personal equipment as well as time.
Both Cloudt and Krause expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the Community Emergency Response Team in organizing the day and keeping track of volunteer hours.
The hours contributed by volunteers will help to meet the local cost of the cleanup.
County Emergency Manager Dan Douglas said the volunteer hours are trackable. He said that FEMA, the state and the local “entity” each pay a percentage of the cost of the cleanup. The volunteer hours can be used to help meet the local percentage cost.
Washington County Cares and Washington County Long-Term Recovery provided scrubbers, brushes and cleaning supplies as well as drinks and snacks for workers throughout the day.
The Salvation Army Disaster Relief mobile feeding unit arrived before noon to provide lunch for all of the volunteers.
A second cleanup day is already planned for this Saturday.
Washington County 4-H members will use their “Lend-A-Hand Service Day” to work at the fairgrounds. The service day will begin at 9 a.m. at the Rybin Building.