By Anne Marie Amacher
As the Mississippi River rose and cities along the river prepared for spring flooding, Catholics in the Davenport Diocese headed out to help their cities in the sandbagging effort.
Forecasts initially called for record flooding, so the Davenport Diocese was among entities and individuals who volunteered to help during regular working hours. Forecasts in recent days indicate major flooding is no longer a threat for the immediate future. Municipalities are grateful, though, for the response to the initial call for help.
Diocesan employees Char Maaske, chief financial officer, and Lauren Flores, receptionist, reported for sandbagging duty March 23 at the Davenport Public Works facility. Diocesan staffers were encouraged to help out during the work week or on their own time. “This is a community effort. We are part of the community,” Maaske said.
She noted that none of the parishes along the Mississippi should be in danger even if record flooding occurs. “Our churches tend to be built on higher ground.”
Dan Ebener, director of stewardship and planning for the diocese, was social action director during “The Great Flood of 1993.” The diocese helped distribute millions of dollars in assistance to people throughout the diocese affected by that flood. But just one church building was affected by floodwaters.
“We had many parishes that had water in their basements, but that was due to heavy and frequent rains, not flooding.” The parish in Eddyville sustained flood damage and eventually was closed a few years later.
For their volunteer duties, Maaske and Flores attached bags to cones to be filled with sand and then passed the bags to other volunteers who tied the bags and stacked them. St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School fifth-graders Joe Lasher, Matt Goodall and Eddie VanCamp also were at the public works facility helping out after school. They wore bright yellow work vests and work gloves — a requirement for helping out.
Deacon Chuck Metzger and co-workers from Brown Traffic Products in Davenport were filling sandbags as well. Deacon Metzger of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf said he gathered a team of co-workers to bag sand when he heard the call for help.
Jan Hill of St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass also heard the call for volunteers and planned to volunteer at the sign-in table one or two times a week as needed.
On March 24 the city of Davenport delivered sand and supplies to St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School’s parking lot for sandbagging volunteers. Principal Julie Delaney said the school participated in sandbagging in 1993 and one of the teachers reminded her of that effort. This time, it was decided sixth- through eighth-graders would sandbag as a service learning project for religion class.
“Service to our community and reaching outside of our parish is an important trait that we want to foster in our students,” Delaney said. “By using religion class, which is the most important part of our day, students see the importance of giving of their time and talent to the community. As a Catholic school, we need to put our faith into action. We also want students to experience the feeling of accomplishment they get when contributing to a larger cause, protecting our city from the spring floods.”
The city’s public works department was very receptive to St. Paul’s offer to help, said school secretary Claire Coughlin. City workers also showed adult volunteers how much sand to place in bags and how to tie and load them. When the sixth-graders went through almost the entire pile of sand delivered in the morning, the school requested another load for its seventh- and eighth-graders. Parents and teachers pitched in to fill, supervise and haul loads of filled sandbags back to the public works department.
Sixth-grader Allison Tallman said it was fun to shovel the sand. “We’re helping out people who might be affected by the flooding.” Fellow classmate Isabella Zepeda added it was hard work and cold outside, but she had fun, too.