Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

Helping with flood reliefHelping with flood relief

Willamette community unites to aid flood-relief efforts in Salem

When Anna Fredendall ’15 woke up one morning last week, she didn’t expect to spend her afternoon battling the rain. But that’s exactly what she and about 200 other Willamette students, faculty and staff did to help aid flood-abatement efforts throughout the Salem community.

“There are so many people who need help in a situation like this," she says. "It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody can control what the weather does, and if I’m not under water, I might as well help out people who are.”

For more than 40 volunteers, sand bagging began Thursday night on the university campus, where they monitored the Mill Race until the water began to recede at 1 a.m. A new batch of recruits arrived at 12:30 p.m. Friday to fill and place sand bags throughout the city — including Bush Park and South Salem High School.

President Steve Thorsett lent a hand, working alongside more than 20 students at Bush Park. Everyone was cold and wet, but what mattered was knowing their efforts were making a difference, Thorsett says.

“It’s exciting for me to join our students today for Into the Streets,” he says. “It’s just so wonderful that we were able to do this at a time when our community needed our help so much. It’s tremendously fulfilling to all of us to contribute back to Salem in this way.”

Into the Streets is a university service project scheduled each year as part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. In past years, volunteers were sent to interact with children at the Salem Outreach Shelter, help sort donations at the Union Gospel Mission and work with residents at the Jason Lee Manor Retirement Center.

This year, in light of imminent flooding dangers, most were redirected to HandsOn Mid-Willamette Valley to assist in sand-bagging efforts where needed.

“It's extremely meaningful to see the Willamette faculty, staff and students rally together to help in the immediate needs of our community in this natural disaster,” says co-coordinator Matt Pitchford ’12. “I'm just happy that we will be able to help out.”