Photos: Fargo's 'Sandbag Central' volunteers reflect on flood fight

Science ·

1 Isaac Samuelson, 14, of Horace, N.D., was one of 4,103 middle and high schools students who volunteered to make sandbags at Sandbag Central in 2013. "I just think it's fun," said the eighth-grader, who missed two days of school to volunteer. Samuelson's house is protected from Sheyenne River flooding thanks to a permanent diversion channel. 
2 Dwight Nettleton, 55, of Fargo, N.D., is a longtime Fargo resident and a dedicated Sandbag Central volunteer. During the 2011 flood event, Nettleton volunteered for 23 days. This year he was putting in eight- to nine-hour days, and had 12 days under his belt as of April 23, 2013. "It makes you feel good," he said. 
3 Ask Kay Braun how many days she has put in volunteering during the 2013 flood event and she says she simply doesn't know. Ask her why she volunteers and she says, "My husband says I do it so I don't worry." The 59-year-old Fargo, N.D., resident lives across the street from the Red River. "I don't think people realize how far the water would go without dike protection," Braun said. 
4 Jack Burns, 21, of Wabasha, Minn., attends North Dakota State University. "As a student in this city, I feel a responsibility to help," said Burns, who volunteered at Sandbag Central at least three different times. 
5 Margo Askin, 69, of Barnesville, Minn., volunteers with the Red Cross. As an organization, the Red Cross put in 336 hours of volunteer time at Sandbag Central. "You meet the neatest people. People you don't run into everyday at the grocery store," said Askin, a retiree who used to work as a volunteer coordinator. 
6 Cody Cunningham, 20, of Blackfoot, Idaho, is halfway through a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I love helping people," said Cunningham, who put in more than 20 hours at Sandbag Central. 
7 Ron Rateau, 68, of Fargo, N.D., volunteers full time for The Salvation Army. He and his wife, Elaine, are retired. "Elaine and I want to help as many people as we can," he said. "We've worked all the Fargo floods." The Rateaus were among 85 Salvation Army volunteers who logged nearly 400 hours at Sandbag Central. 
8 Count SallyJo Eide, 58, of rural West Fargo, N.D., among the 4,158 community volunteers who spent 22,329 hours at Sandbag Central. For her part, Eide put in more than 30 hours making sandbags. "There are a lot that can't come," she said. 
9 Thirteen-year-old Jacob Lind of Fargo, N.D., is a first-time Sandbag Central volunteer. He came with his dad, Kevin, after school on April 23, 2013. "I didn't really know what to think," he said. 
10 Michael Yeanay, 14, of West Fargo, N.D., like many middle and high school age students, enjoyed a day or two away from the classroom. "I came here for the food," said Yeanay, who also mentioned he likes helping people too. Students like Yeanay accounted for 20,515 volunteer hours at Sandbag Central. 
11 Joel Aanstad, 57, of Fargo, N.D., is between jobs at the moment and volunteered at Sandbag Central during past floods. He usually comes between 3 and 7 p.m. since that shift tends to have a lighter turnout. The work is "physically tiring and tells a person how out of shape they are." 
12 Dan Johnston, 63, of Fargo, N.D., was a daily presence at Sandbag Central and most often found near a table piled high with empty sandbags. Ask him about the flood and he'll tell you what he tells everyone, "Have a happy flood." Ask him why he volunteers and he'll give you two different answers: "It beats staying at home and arguing with the wife," and "It's just something you need to do in a community."