Volunteers clear tornado debris

2009-09-02T00:00:00Z Volunteers clear tornado debrisBrian Williams - brian.williams@nwi.com, (219) 548-4348 nwitimes.com

CHESTERTON | Because Tuesday was such a beautiful day to muck around in Coffee Creek and coming days may not be, a gathering of local citizens took the opportunity to clear the waterway of recent tornado debris.

The buzz of chain saws drowned out late summer crickets and cicadas as volunteers worked to remove downed trees and brush from a stretch of the creek between Indian Boundary Road and St. Patrick Church.

Remembering last September's deadly flooding, organizers decided to start the creek clearing immediately rather than wait for a weekend day.

"We know it's going to take a long time," Ron Seman said. "I said, 'Let's not wait around until there's flooding."

Louie Posavac didn't wait.

The Chesterton resident got off work at the steel mill at 3 a.m., grabbed a few hours of sleep, then joined the creek clearing effort before returning to the mill in the afternoon.

"We saw a need in the community," Posavac said. "Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan. We're just following in his steps. All too often people walk by."

Posavac's wife Heather also helped haul tree sections and debris from the creek.

"I've been looking on this as a blessing," she said. "People are coming out and seeing we do have community. We're learning to be there for each other."

The work day employed a new technology for the nontechnology minded.

Seman, a retired information technology specialist, developed voice recognition software to convert messages left on a help request line to e-mails that go out to volunteers.

If the new network of help was all Web-based, Seman said, it would bypass people without computers, who are often elderly and often the ones most in need of a helping hand.

Seman's software parses the messages to pick out keywords that can link the called-in need to volunteers with the skills to meet that need.

Spearheading the project was NeighborLink Porter County (neighborlinkpc.org), an almost year-old coalition of county churches organizing Web-based connection between people with needs and volunteers who can help them. The Posavacs were among helpers who responded to a help email.

Tuesday's effort grew out of an early morning prayer group at Liberty Bible Church.

Seman, a member of the group, said he has always been interested in ministry and saw an opportunity to put his skills to work after the storm.

Ironically, he said, he put the finishing touches on his software the day of the tornado, Aug. 19.

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