Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current, January 01, 2008, Page 13, Image 13

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Inmates Have Huge Impact in Time of Need
By Scott Laird
As Vernonia was in the midst of recovering from the
Flood of 2007, a public meeting was held on December
15, twelve days after the disaster. Many of the different
outside organizations that had come to assist the com-
munity were represented and introduced at the meeting.
“They really stepped up and went above and beyond
what we expected. Some of them became real leaders
and crew bosses.”
“We sent them off with a ceremony,” said interim City
Administrator Aldie Howard. “There
were tears everywhere. They were just
great.” Howard presented each inmate
with a letter of recognition and thanks
from the citizens of Vernonia, express-
ing our gratitude and wishing them each
a successful future.
The initial crews came from the Mill
Creek, Columbia River, South Fork and
Multnomah County facilities. They in-
cluded almost 200 inmates, guards and a
mobile kitchen that provided three meals
a day not only for the work crews, but for
any one else who was hungry including
community volunteers, emergency per-
sonnel and city staff.
These included the Red Cross, FEMA, the Department
of Health, ODOT, state politicians, and even a repre-
sentative from Governor Kulongoski’s office. But by
far the largest ovation was reserved for the representa-
tives from the Oregon Department of Corrections.
Anyone who was in Vernonia during the first few
weeks of the flood recovery had only rave reviews of
the inmate crews who were brought in to assist with
the clean up efforts. The inmates could be seen ev-
erywhere you looked, loading and unloading supplies,
chopping firewood, stocking shelves as the Food Bank
reopened, sorting garbage, and mostly cleaning up de-
bris that residents had hauled from their homes to the
street. Everyone had great things to say about their ef-
“I can’t say enough about those guys,” said Bob Stack-
lie, who was working at the Vernonia Cares Food Bank.
of supervision,” said Griggs. “These are all prison-
ers who have earned this right to be on these crews.
It’s a real perk for them.” Griggs explained that all
prisoners, must by law, either work or be in programs
like education or parenting classes for forty hours each
week. The outdoor work crews are the most sought
after positions.
“This has been a great experience for us,”
said Chane Griggs of the Department of Corrections.
Griggs explained that Or-
egon is at the forefront
in sending prison inmate
crews for emergency re-
sponse, and disaster relief.
“It’s a great resource. We
do firefighting in the sum-
mer, but this is the first
time we responded to a
community emergency in
this way. I think a lot of
other states will be looking
at this idea, since this has
been so successful.”
One of many great stories that involved the inmate
crews, was the story of Doobie, the lost pug. Doobie
had been missing for seven days when an inmate crew
noticed a small dog running around loose. Later they
saw posters for the
lost dog, and were
able to reunite Doo-
bie with her own-
ers. “If it wasn’t for
them, we wouldn’t
have got her back,”
said owner Julie
Mickey. The in-
mates didn’t even
ask about the re-
ward that had been
offered for Doobie’s
safe return.
Inmates that were sent out on the crews came from
minimum security facilities, are considered low risk,
and are close to their release date. “We sent plenty
“We are very proud of our Department,” said Griggs.
“It was a great opportunity to show the work that we
can do.”
Lincoln Grade School Volunteers- Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind
By Scott Laird
When the flood hit Vernonia Decem-
ber 3, there were limited spaces avail-
able that could be used as recovery
centers. One location that has gotten
extensive use is the old Lincoln Grade
School which has been sitting empty
on the hill overlooking town for the
last few years. Though it was not
centrally located nor as visible as the
other relief centers in town, Lincoln
grade school became a focal point for
flood victims recovery efforts.
The Lincoln school was initially set up as an overnight shelter on the first day of flood-
ing. It provided shelter and food for fifty-two
people who were stranded on the east side of
town. Synda Allen opened the building and
helped establish the shelter that first night.
Because there was no kitchen facility that
was operational in the building, those shel-
tered there were moved to the permanent
location at Cedar Ridge the next day. And
that’s when things really got busy at the old
Current owner Bud Dow graciously kept the
building open, and allowed it to be used as a
much needed distribution center for clothing
and furniture. And then the donations began
pouring in. Synda Allen, Mona Peyton and
Lee Seibert worked tirelessly to organize, sort
and display the literally tons of clothing that be-
gan arriving almost immediately. “It was just
such a wonderful outpouring,” said Synda, as
she gave me a tour of the clothing facility. The
amount of donations quickly outgrew the two floors,
and large tents were brought in just to house all the
furniture. The clothing operation filled the school.
“I did this in ‘96,” Synda said. “And this far sur-
passes what we received then.”
The Salvation Army was eventually asked to come
in and help manage the distribution project that the
Vernonia Volunteers has established. For the first
few weeks it took a minimum of twenty people to sort, clean, and run the center.
“Those folks up there on the hill just did an outstanding job,” said Interim City Administrator
Aldie Howard. “They worked so hard. They deserve as much recognition as anyone.”
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