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Volunteers flood Manitou and bring hope, progress

By Emily Allen, Multimedia Journalist /Target 13 Investigator , emily.allen@krdo.com
Published On: Aug 11 2013 07:06:42 PM CDT

They were covered head-to-toe in mud, but the army of volunteers that invaded Manitou Springs Sunday was a beautiful sight to business owners.

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. -

They were covered head-to-toe in mud, but the army of volunteers that invaded Manitou Springs Sunday was a beautiful sight to business owners.

Eager volunteers flooded the town hit by flash flooding Friday. The flash floods wreaked havoc on businesses and homes in its path.

Hundreds of volunteers were a sign of hope for overwhelmed business owners whose livelihood is buried beneath a thick layer of mud and debris.

"I realize it's just clothes but this is our income," said business owner Angie Findley as she stared at a mound of soggy clothes dripping with mud.

Findley worked 12 hours every day for three years on the muddy pile. It's $75,000 of merchandise she planned to sell online. The flash flood destroyed her family's safety net in minutes.

"I don't know if we are going to make it honestly. We have everything invested in the business and the eBay business is supporting our family while Stick 'Em Up! takes off," said Findley.

The family is stretched thin financially while their sign and decals store grows. Findley planned to use the money earned from eBay sales to support her family over the next months. The flash flood broke through their basement door and destroyed almost all of her inventory.

A stranger is giving Findley a helping hand.

"I was just walking down the street with my shovel and that's where I ended up," said volunteer Kristi Foss. "They were dunking these clothes in a bucket of water and trying to wring them out.  It was just the worst mess so I stopped to help."

The family can't afford a professional cleaning service so Findley tried to wash the clothes in her home washing machine. It didn't work.

Foss and Findley had never met. Foss brought Findley hope, and a power washer.

"It's the best $80 I've ever spent I think," said Foss.

The flash flood tore through The Dulcimer Shop's garage.

"They're shoveling about one foot of mud out of the basement over there and two feet on this side," said The Dulcimer Shop's Erin Ford gesturing to her property.

The garage stored the shop's wood and supplies to build musical instruments. Ford also lost several vehicles in her back parking lot.

"I couldn't stop crying yesterday. I couldn't accomplish anything without these people. Nothing would have been done," said Ford.

Ford wasn't feeling so overwhelmed Sunday thanks to volunteers like 5-year-old Liam Campbell.

"They have had a herculean task and I'm amazed at what they're doing," said Ford.

Campbell saw the flood's destruction as he watched morning news with his mom on Sunday. He thought the destruction was states away. His mom told him it was in Manitou.

Campbell said it made him feel "sad, so I decided to come help."

Campbell left the heavy lifting to the adults. He managed the mud pile.

"I like playing in that dirt," said Campbell.

When asked if he was glad he came to help, he responded: "Uh huh. I am."

It was a feeling volunteers of all ages could agree on.

The Red Cross estimates it will take several days to clean up all the sludge that has covered streets in the flood's path. Red Cross spokesperson Bill Fortune said volunteers should show up with good footwear, work gloves and a hat because the work is dirty.

"You are going to be working in some really nasty mud because this isn't your ordinary mud. This is the kind of mud that comes of the burn scar. So whatever sludge was in the river brought more sludge down from the fire. It's pretty nasty stuff," said Fortune.

If you're interested in helping out, just show up at City Hall on Manitou Avenue to register. Officials say they work from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you can't shovel, Fortune said there is plenty of other work like helping with records and organizing volunteers.

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