Group to aid tornado victims

Church-linked volunteers offering refurbishing work for free
2009-08-27T00:00:00Z Group to aid tornado victimsHEATHER AUGUSTYN Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
August 27, 2009 12:00 am  • 

CHESTERTON | Whenever Ron Seman is out taking his golden retriever for a walk these days, he is sure to visit areas where the tornado came through last week in an effort to get the word out about his volunteer group.

"I put fliers in newspaper boxes, under windshield wipers and on front doors offering our free labor," says Seman who is an organizer with Sacred Grounders, a group of volunteers from area churches who give their time to help those in need after a disaster.

Seman said the group is at least 150 people strong and they volunteer according to their skill set (such as plumbing, excavating, etc.) or as their schedule allows.

Recently, members of the group have started working with residents of Pinney Court in Chesterton to help remove fallen trees from nearby Coffee Creek since the debris is not in the town's jurisdiction and is not covered by the residents' home owners insurance.

"There are about 20 structures there and we'll come in with our chain saws to remove the debris and haul it to the street for the town to remove," said Seman.

Sacred Grounders volunteers also have been working with residents of a 6-acre parcel that has more than 100 trees knocked down by the tornado, most of which are over 40 years old and large, Seman says.

"They just moved here a year ago and now have two large trees that fell on their house, their cinderblock barn is destroyed, along with their camper, SUV, pool and playground. We have been working there with about 30 volunteers and it will take to the end of September," said Seman.

The group is also working next door where a 100-year-old oak tree fell into the bedroom of an elderly couple's home just 5 feet from the resident, said Seman.

The key to the group's response is the technology that is Seman's creation.

"I have a computer background and created an immediate response system that uses servers to send e-mails to alert people who can help. It matches those with specific skills to those skills needed, or areas where volunteers have said they would like to help and it happens very quickly," Seman says.

The labor is free and the payoff is great for those who help, knowing they are truly making a difference. Plus, Seman said there may be a little bonus now and then.

"At the end of our work with one home, the owners are going to have a big bonfire with some of the logs and we'll make s'mores," he said.

For those who would like to volunteer, or those in need, please call (219) 285-1463.

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