It was a beautiful day for a drive Tuesday, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, first lady Betsy Dalrymple, and more than a dozen volunteers from the state tourism and commerce departments did just that - all the way to Minot to help gut flood-damaged homes.
"There's been a very good response to the governor's call for volunteers down in Bismarck," Wrigley said. "He keeps asking me, 'When are you going up? When are you going up?'"
More than 100 state employees have come to Minot so far to volunteer their time.
Dan Feldner/MDN • Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley carries debris out of the basement of a flooded home in southwest Minot Tuesday afternoon. Wrigley was joined for the day by first lady Betsy Dalrymple and more than a dozen other volunteers from the commerce and tourism departments as they helped gut a home.
Dan Feldner/MDN • Betsy Dalrymple, wife of North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, drops a handful of debris into a garbage can Tuesday. While she couldn’t swing a sledgehammer, Dalrymple found plenty of other tasks to do in the basement of a flood-damaged home in southwest Minot.
Dan Feldner/MDN • Abram Styles, team leader for All Hands Volunteers, carries a piece of wood to a debris pile outside a flood-damaged home in southwest Minot Tuesday. Along with All Hands, volunteers from AmeriCorps and state employees from Bismarck worked to clean the home’s basement.
"And we need more volunteers, because we can see with our own eyes that there's a great need," Dalrymple said.
Along with volunteers from AmeriCorps and All Hands Volunteers, the group from Bismarck went to flood-damaged homes in the 900 block of First Avenue Southwest to help gut them. Dirty coveralls, scratched hard hats, safety glasses, face masks, headlamps and well-worn gloves were standard issue as the volunteers spent the afternoon in the cramped basement of one home, gutting it and carrying all the debris up the stairs and out onto the curb.
The volunteers come not just from all over the state, but all over the country in the case of those with AmeriCorps and All Hands. Abram Styles, the team leader for All Hands, is from Baltimore, Md. Styles, Wrigley, Dalrymple, and every other volunteer all came to Minot for the same reason.
"All of us who are here today, our human nature is to help other people. And this is the overriding need at the moment in our state, although other people in Bismarck and Mandan, Devils Lake, and even in Jamestown now they're diking," Dalrymple said. "There are needs elsewhere, but it was just a small way we could give our help and assistance."
They were removing Styrofoam from the basement's concrete exterior walls, shoveling the mess on the floor - which was caked with wet grime that made the simple act of walking hazardous - and putting it into garbage cans to be hauled back upstairs and outside to the curb, and tearing out damaged studs.
"And so whenever we need a sledgehammer, Betsy grabs a sledgehammer and crushes the stud," Wrigley said to Dalrymple's laughter.
"No, I say, 'Here, Drew. I need you,'" Dalrymple responded.
Wrigley said the progress he's seen since the floodwaters receded has been real and quite pronounced. He noted not too long ago the streets were lined with mountains of garbage, and now much of it has been removed.
"Every one of us was commenting on how impressed we are with the will of the people of Minot and the surrounding area. (They) have just done enormous work," Wrigley said. "There's a lot to be done, there's no question. But boy, progress is real."
He noted the family who owns the home they were cleaning did a huge amount of work Monday, but there's only so much a person can do before they need to take a break, especially considering how unhealthy the working conditions are.
"It's very difficult work, and the conditions are not great. And that's why the governor initially, and now the first lady, is calling again on people to come out and volunteer," Wrigley said. "When everybody can lend a few hours, it can really help the people who are coming out day in and day out."
Those who wish to volunteer can go to the Minot Municipal Auditorium to sign up. The dispatch center operated by All Hands is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wrigley said All Hands makes it incredibly easy to volunteer. All you have to do is show up at the dispatch center and they plug you in where you're needed.
Styles, who was directing the volunteers at the house, has been in Minot for over two weeks and isn't leaving until Sept. 5. He said the response to the call for volunteers has been incredible, from both in Minot and around the country.
"All Hands members, we've had as many as 35 at one time, and we have a lot of unaffiliated volunteers come in and help us every day. The AmeriCorps people that are here are in and out, but they just keep on cycling in and we get a lot of help like that," Styles said. "But we always need more help. We need as much help as we can, and we'll definitely be able to use it."
Styles also mentioned that there are all sorts of jobs that need to be done, so someone who can't do a lot of heavy lifting can still sweep, help fill a trash can, and do many other things to help out.
"We all welcome as many hands as we can get, because we have a lot of projects to do, and very little time," Styles said. "The winter months kick in, and it's really difficult to work in the winter months. We only have a couple months left, so we're going to need as many people as possible."
Dalrymple was wearing a blue "Need A Hug?" T-shirt, and said she wished the family was there so she could give each of them a hug. Sometimes giving emotional support is just as important ripping down some Sheetrock.
"I think the governor and I and the state want them to know that we have them in our hearts and our prayers, and they'll get through it," Dalrymple said.