After record snow, volunteers are ready to help

December 20, 2009|By Sam Sessa | sam.sessa@baltsun.com | Baltimore Sun reporter

Chuck Kiessling was sitting in his Glen Burnie home watching TV Saturday afternoon when he heard the Baltimore Washington Medical Center needed volunteers to help bring staff to and from the hospital.

Kiessling, a design consultant, hopped in his red 1999 Ford truck and headed for the hospital.

"The hospitals have always been here when I needed them, so when they put out the word they needed some help, I was available and had the means," he said. "I like to think if anybody needs the hospital for anything, their staff is here to support them."

When this weekend's blizzard blanketed the region, volunteers emerged to help friends and strangers cope with the weather. They cleared snow off churches and schools and moved furniture from one city neighborhood to another. Kiessling was one of about 60 who responded to the hospital's call for drivers, according to Allison Eatough, spokeswoman for Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

"It's been a huge help," Eatough said.

Though he didn't get stuck, Kiessling said the snow was coming down faster than the plows could keep up with it. On Saturday, some of the side roads were blocked, and the main roads were snow covered but drivable.

Kiessling called it a night at 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning, and was back at the hospital helping again at 6 a.m. Sunday. The trips have taken him as far as Annapolis and Ellicott City, he said, and he plans on volunteering as long as he is needed today.

"This is my first time, and it won't be my last," he said. "As long as I'm able, I'll keep doing it. ... It's nice to know you're able to help somebody."

On Sundays, Curtis Brown, a 51-year-old who lives in South Baltimore, sings in the choir at the Light Street Presbyterian Church. Before services started yesterday, he was using a garden spade to break up a thick layer of ice on the sidewalk. He had already shoveled snow from the sidewalk twice on Saturday, and returned Sunday to help finish the job.

"When I came today, it was all ice," he said. "It was daunting. I wasn't sure what was going to work." When Carl Armstrong moved to Federal Hill earlier this year, his friends helped carry his furniture.

Yesterday, they asked him to return the favor, and help them move from South Baltimore to Fells Point. Armstrong reluctantly agreed. The mixture of snow and ice on the ground made the move-in trickier than Armstrong expected, but he was determined to see it through.

"This is ridiculous," said Armstrong, 26. "It's kind of scary. We could fall. ... But I got some help last spring, so I'm paying it back."

Yesterday morning, Frank Muher was one of more than 10 parents and about 15 kids who volunteered to shovel snow and ice at Federal Hill Elementary school.

"The kids were having snowball fights and running around while the parents shoveled out the school," said Muher, 40.

Earlier in the day, Muher spotted a stranger with a snowplow, and asked if he could borrow it. Muher offered to give the stranger his license as collateral, but the stranger trusted him, and let him have the plow for a couple hours.

"It was great," he said. "There was a lot of snow to move, and it was certainly appreciated by all the moms and dads."

Muher was happy to help clear the snow from the school, though he admits he was partially motivated by self-interest. Both his children, Ben and Jacob, attend the school.

"It was not as much as good deed as it was us hoping the school opens tomorrow, so we can get rid of our children," Muher said.

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