Helping hands needed in NY

Michael Walker thinks helping his neighbors is the right thing to do.

BY HEATHER MOYER | CONKLIN, N.Y. | July 26, 2006

"We really need more volunteers."

—Michael Walker

Michael Walker thinks helping his neighbors is the right thing to do.

The 19-year-old disaster volunteer coordinator for the Binghamton Jewish Community Center said helping out flooded community members is something everyone should do.

"This is our community," said Walker, who's also serving as the local volunteer coordinator of national Jewish disaster relief organization Nechama. "If we don't step up to help, who will? This is our responsibility."

A native of nearby Vestal, Walker already had a long-lasting relationship with the local Jewish community center. So when they asked him to be the volunteer coordinator, he thought it was a good way to spend his summer in between college semesters. "I was a waiter before this happened, but this seems much more productive. It's a good way to spend the summer."

On a steamy Wednesday, Walker and a gang of other Nechama volunteers were tearing out drywall and insulation from one of many flood-damaged homes in hard-hit Conklin. This particular home had not been touched since the flooding hit almost one month ago.

Nechama sent in a disaster relief trailer to supply the volunteers until Aug. 11, a move Walker and others call very generous. Now they just need more volunteers to use the provided tools. "We really need more volunteers," said Walker. "We've already done two houses. We'd like to get five or six more houses cleaned out. We have the tools, but without the people it's pointless."

Nechama volunteer Aaron Lewis agreed with Walker. "There's certainly no shortage of work to be done around here," said the California resident in town to help for a few weeks.

The flooding damaged hundreds of homes along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries around Conklin. Visible water and mud lines scar homes along the main street for a significant section of town.

Walker's Wednesday volunteer team is exactly the kind he likes - not afraid to get their hands dirty. As they shoveled out piles of broken drywall and mud, the sound of laughter frequently emanated through the building.

Local volunteer Neisen Luks added that he was happy to use his free time as a retiree. "I've got time to do some good," he said with a smile.

And like Lewis, some volunteers came from farther away to lend a hand. "I saw the Nechama newsletter about this and wanted to help," said Craig Goldman of New Jersey. "I also have family around here, so I know this area."

The crew said they also were lending a hand for the same reason Walker is: helping is just the right thing to do.

"This is part of the Jewish way," said Meryl Sasnowitz, a volunteer from nearby Binghamton. "You just help people. When you see a need, you help them."

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Related Links:

Nechama Disaster Relief


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