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Cleaning up Sandbags: a Personal Story

June 7, 2019
Feature Stories

City employee Carly Wolff tells the story of what it is like to remove sandbags with fellow City staff this week.

The work of removing sandbags is a hard, dirty job. Sandbags are heavy, sometimes wet, and covered in insects. They smell and the repetitive work of lifting and moving them gets tiring fast.

But, it’s also very rewarding work.

Like a lot of people, my heart went out to the residents, our neighbours, who were affected by the recent flood. I wanted to help those people who have been through so much.

Yesterday, I worked alongside a group of hard-working, dedicated folks who brought their best to this volunteer effort. They had no off switch.

At my location, I was part of a diverse team of 24 employees from across all City departments. They included employees who regularly find themselves out “in the field” and those who normally find themselves behind a desk (like me). The largest contingent of City workers comes from the Public Works and Environmental Services and the Recreation, Cultural and Facility Services departments. Hundreds are working to help clear sandbags from around residences across the City.

We met at the Canadian Tire Centre and set out around noon to the Crystal Beach area. Not many of us knew each other at the start, but as we set to work we became close collaborators. The energy and commitment from the group was contagious.

Bag-by-bag we tackled sandbag walls and debris at two properties over the afternoon. We used a variety of techniques to remove the soiled sandbags, including the “daisy chain” where bags are handed from person to person to a wheelbarrow that moved the bags to the curb to be collected by Public Works and Environmental Services. Volunteers swapped positions throughout the chain, giving everyone a chance to do lighter work when they got too tired.

Some intrepid volunteers who were on wheelbarrow duty loaded their own wheelbarrows while waiting in the queue. Some sandbags weighed up to 50 pounds, and the volunteers operating the wheelbarrows were taking away upwards of eight to 10 bags at a time!

Over five hours, we helped remove approximately 6,000 sandbags. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, with many more properties surrounded by hundreds of thousands of sandbags.

Despite the hard, dirty work sandbag removal entails, at the end of the day, in addition to being very sore, I felt a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. We came together as a team to help our community and bring two residents closer to normalcy.

For those who have time and might be considering volunteering to help remove sandbags and debris, I cannot recommend it enough.

If you are interested in volunteering to help with the efforts this weekend, visit ottawa.ca for more information.

 

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