Student volunteers help recovery efforts in several Boulder neighborhoods

Published: Sept. 25, 2013

Last weekend, nearly two hundred CU-Boulder students joined the Volunteer Resource Center for a September Give a Day effort, working to help clear out some of the mud and debris from in and around flood victims’ homes in Boulder.

In fact, so many people wanted to help, the Volunteer Resource Center had to put a cap on the number of students allowed to sign up.

“Boulder gives so much to CU, and we just want to give back,” said one of the students who joined volunteers last Saturday in North Boulder.

Two Buff Buses packed with student volunteers dispersed to work around Violet Avenue and Broadway, near the new “uptown” developments and restaurants. Because the neighborhood is at the base of North Boulder’s foothills, the area was in a vulnerable spot for excess runoff and overflow of the Fourmile Creek when heavy rainfall began to accumulate. The Volunteer Resource Center had sent canvassers into the neighborhood beforehand, to find out which homes had the worst damage and welcomed the offer to help.

Two other waves of students were sent out later that day, to 26th and Topaz and the Frasier Meadows Retirement Community. All three of these areas were determined high need after volunteers from the Resource Center canvassed beforehand to assess.

At one home where an elderly couple lived, a group of sophomore girls cleared a walkway for the couple to reach their car.

Another group of students helped homeowner and Christmas tree grower, Chris Brown, shovel sticky mud out of his front yard. Brown and his wife, Elizabeth Black, are both artists who have enjoyed co-owning their business, Your Neighborhood Christmas Tree Farm. Luckily, Brown managed to divert water flows and protect the nursery, but a thick sludge lines the front of their yard and some trees in back, he said, didn’t fare too well.

Kim Schuler’s home across from Crest View Elementary was completely flooded in the downstairs. While several CU students worked on getting a 3-inch cover of mud out of the way in his yard, more volunteers from Calvary Bible Church were working on the inside.

Schuler built his family’s two-story home 30 years ago, with a peach stucco finish, an outdoor pool filled with fresh stream flow from the creek and a volleyball court in the backyard. His pool and volleyball court are now filled with mud, his entire downstairs ravaged, and one of the stucco walls actually shifted inward from water pressure. He anticipates it will take about three weeks, with the help of others, to excavate all the damaged flooring and walls from the downstairs. Then, he said, “we’ll have it assessed for insurance, and then we can start rebuilding.”

Many homes like these are just starting the road to recovery, and volunteer coordinators at CU anticipate the demand for help will last weeks, if not months. Organizers at Boulder Flood Relief stress that recovery in towns like Lyons and Jamestown will take even longer.

Several of the students expressed that it’s hard to see all of the devastation throughout the community, but inspiring to see how the CU community has come together.

“It’s great to see what kind of students we have at CU,” said one of the volunteers. “It’s great to see this turnout.”

Jen Ross, Director of the Volunteer Resource Center, encourages students to keep the momentum going.

“We are receiving a tremendous amount of inquiries that are flood relief related, and I believe efforts will be needed in the community for years to come,” Ross said. “We are exploring all avenues that may assist us to assist with the demand currently. We are hoping to do as much as we can to sustain the short and long term efforts in Boulder and surrounding.”

For more information on volunteer opportunities visit the Volunteer Resource Center website.