After the storm

Team Rubicon, local volunteers team up to help clear storm damage
by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff


VOLUNTEERS FROM TEAM Rubicon USA (above) coordinate and direct cleanup efforts following the Aug. 28 storm and tornado, including distribution of needed cleanup supplies (below), from space in the Orange Cross Ambulance Service facility on Plymouth’s south side. Rubicon volunteers worked side-by-side with local volunteers at sights throughout the county, including on Parnell Road in the town of Mitchell (cover). — Review photos by Emmitt B. Feldner VOLUNTEERS FROM TEAM Rubicon USA (above) coordinate and direct cleanup efforts following the Aug. 28 storm and tornado, including distribution of needed cleanup supplies (below), from space in the Orange Cross Ambulance Service facility on Plymouth’s south side. Rubicon volunteers worked side-by-side with local volunteers at sights throughout the county, including on Parnell Road in the town of Mitchell (cover). — Review photos by Emmitt B. Feldner A neighbor can be next door or live hundreds, even thousands of miles away.

That has been proved time and again in the two-and-a-half weeks since a major storm, including a tornado touchdown in the village of Cascade, ripped through the county Aug. 28.

“We’re very excited that your own community has volunteered so much to help their neighbors,” Lorena Bricker of Team Rubicon USA said.

Team Rubicon, which is leading the recovery effort locally, is a veterans service organization that offers free, volunteer disaster aid.

The gray-shirted Rubicon volunteers have been aided by a corps of local volunteers – which team members call “spontaneous volunteers” - daily in their efforts, which has focused largely on removing fallen and damaged trees along with other debris.

“We’ve been getting 10 or more a day,” Nick Checchia of Team Rubicon noted of the spontaneous volunteers. “We had to cap it because it was all we could handle.”

Checchia, an Army veteran from Memphis, Tenn., was working Wednesday with four other gray shirts and two locals – wearing white Team Rubicon t-shirts – Paul Stienmetz of Newton and Ron Wood of Sheboygan at a home on Parnell Road in the town of Mitchell removing fallen trees.

“There’s a need,” Stienmetz said simply when asked why he volunteered. “That’s what Americans should do. I wasn’t doing anything else that was more important.”

“Our main focus has been on helping residents have ingress and egress to their own home,” Bricker explained. For that reason, she noted, many of the gray shirts are sawyers, skilled at trimming and cutting trees.

The Sheb oygan County and Fond du Lac United Ways set up a Volunteer Reception Center in the Plymouth fire house. Manned by staff from the Public Health Divisions in the two counties, the center registered local volunteers and turned them over to Team Rubicon for deployment.

“It’s been a good response,” said Division of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

Jenny Vorpagel, who was manning the volunteer center Wednesday.

“It took a day or two to get the word out, but we got some good volunteers. We got a message from Team Rubicon saying they appreciate the community support and how great the volunteers are,” Vorpagel added.

Bricker, a veteran and a Navy wife from San Diego, Calif., said most of the Team Rubicon volunteers are from surrounding states. When there is a call for aid, she said, the call first goes to group members within a 450-mile or so radius, then beyond if more are needed.

In all, a little more than two dozen Team Rubicon volunteers have been boots on ground in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties to lead the cleanup effort.

“If you talk to any one of us, we’ll tell you we have never done anything more fulfilling than this,” Bricker said of the gray-shirted volunteers. “You have a purpose in the military and now we have a purpose again. When you come back (from service) you like that sense of being needed, that sense of camaraderie. This brings us back together with our team.”

She and Checchia were both effusive in their praise of the support Team Rubicon has received locally.

“It’s been amazing,” Checchia observed. “Anything we’ve needed or hadn’t thought of yet, (the community) has been able to help us.

“The emergency managers have been great,” he continued. “The public health ladies running the Volunteer Resource Center have been absolutely amazing as far as getting us volunteers. And even more kudos to the local spontaneous volunteers coming out to help.”


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