After the devastating June 1st tornado, Springfield resident Delores Culp had a house with severe roof damage, water leakage through the light fixtures, cabinets torn off the wall from trees falling and pounding the house and a chimney that was completely knocked off. Despite these demoralizing effects, Culp, with the warm and caring outreached hands of the community, has persevered through these difficult times with unbelievably high spirits.
On Sunday, Nov. 6, a group of 15 Springfield College student volunteers, led by graduate students Jamie Goldstein and Bryan Bierman, were at Culp’s house continuing their rebuilding and repair work. Goldstein and Bierman had previously worked on Culp’s house during a five-day tornado rebuilding effort that was spearheaded by Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit organization that provides repairs to the homes of the less fortunate, veterans and senior citizens.
Over 2,000 selfless volunteers stretching from Springfield to Boston took part in the rebuilding effort during the first week of October, helping to repair damages to houses from the tornado. Goldstein and Bierman developed such a communal relationship with Culp, along with Rebuilding Together, that they were more than happy to return and continue work on her house. After sending out an email blast to different Springfield student leaders, such as Pre-Camp and NSO, 15 volunteers, from freshmen to graduate students, took time out of their demanding schedules to assist in the rebuilding effort.
The volunteers, along with contractors from Rebuilding Together, performed many tasks on Culp’s house, including removing poorly insulated sheet rock from the second floor and exterior aluminum siding that was damaged from the tornado. Contractors plan on adding new insulation to make the house more energy efficient. They also intend on completely remodeling her kitchen.
With the countless damages still lingering from the tornado, repair efforts continue to strive forward.
“It’s been challenging, but challenges have become opportunities,” said Robert Bailey, the project manager for the Rebuilding Together Springfield chapter. “The tornado did a tremendous amount of damage in Springfield, along with other communities. The need is so great right now to try and get people back into their homes. There is a huge need and the need will continue.”
The Rebuilding Together Springfield chapter, established in 1992, has played an instrumental role in the recent repairs in the city of Springfield. However, the organization does more than simply help those in need.
““Delores has been a part of our family,” said Bailey. “When we help you, you become a part of our family.”
Culp, who has continued to live in her house despite the constant repairs, has been actively involved in the entire process by offering to help out in any way. She has kept in touch with Goldstein and Bierman, and even refers to them as her “adopted sons.”
“She’s a very giving person,” said Goldstein. “She fits into the Springfield College philosophy of caring for others and service to others. As much as we’re doing for her, she’s doing that much more for us.”
Bryan Bierman even mentioned that Mayor Domenic Sarno has referred to her as “the mayor of her side of town,” advocating her leadership ability. Unquestionably, Culp has been a compassionate, caring and humbling presence who is quite inspirational, given all the tough circumstances. Ever since the first days after the tornado, she has been honored and grateful for all of the help she has been given, especially from Springfield College.
“Springfield College has really been good,” said Culp. “They’ve been having kids left and right coming over here, not only helping me out, but [also helping] everybody else. I really appreciate it, and I’m very thankful.”
Culp, who worked in the service in the personnel department, has also given back to her country and community. After hearing about this fact, freshman Lori Romanukk was more than willing to offer her service to repair Culp’s house, and has already connected her experience to the Springfield College Humanics philosophy.
“This completely ties in with the philosophy,” said Romanukk. “It’s just not on Humanics in Action Day we’re doing this. We’re doing this work throughout the year, not just one day.”
The ultimate goal that Goldstein and Bierman hope to achieve is an increased awareness of the amount of volunteer opportunity that is available.
“We’re trying to build up the community between the Rebuilding Together Springfield chapter and Springfield College,” said Bierman. “That’s our big test. We’ve worked with Rebuilding Together in New Orleans for the past four years and we’ve had some great experiences.”
For more information regarding volunteering or Rebuilding Together, please contact Jamie Goldstein at JGoldstein@springfieldcollege.edu.
Matt Vaghi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org