Sneakers and clothes were ruined, blisters had formed and everyone was exhausted, but the faces on about 300 mud-covered Castleton students, faculty and staff were still smiling. Groups of 10 workers spent majority of their afternoon shoveling muck and silt out of Rutland homes and filling dumpsters of damaged possessions left by hurricane Irene. Even two weeks after the hurricane, the devastation in Rutland remained.
“It felt so good when we helped an 80-year-old woman with her basement,” said Castleton student Jenn Weisenburger with her jeans almost completely brown from mud. “Her son was trying to save up to get someone to help her and he was just shocked when we did it for free,” Weisenburger said.
Michael Caulin, a Rutland resident and 1978 Castleton State graduate, had about 50 feet of his backyard wash away by the river while the bridge from the sixth hole at the Rutland Country Club floated into what is left his yard.
“I’m proud to see them (Castleton) helping the community,” Caulin said while looking at a group shoveling silt away from his house. Caulin’s neighbor, Robin Alberti, was without power for six days and her yard was covered in deep silt. She had been shoveling for a week and a half and thought it was wonderful that Castleton came to help her shovel out the rest. It took her three hours just to dig a path to get to her car and she spoke of using candles and flashlights for days after the storm to see at night.
“My son went to his first day of school and told everyone that we were camping out in our house,” Alberti said with a chuckle.
Michael Barrett of the Rutland Fire Department, said it was very somber going earlier in the day at the funeral for city water plant manager Michael Garofano. But he said seeing the turnout and the wave of Spartan green lightened his mood.
“Castleton is here for Rutland it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Barrett.
President Dave Wolk explained that Castleton has a close connection with Rutland with Spartan Arena and countless students doing internships there. Wolk said he is inspired to see the leadership roles students are taking — even when no one is looking.
“It’s amazing on a Friday to get so many people to come,” said Wolk with a smile on his face, even after just shoveling sewage from a basement.
There were so many volunteers that they actually got ahead of Casella’s trucks during the clean process. Several times during the clean-up, cars would stop and those inside would thank the group of students.
When the work ended, the volunteers were treated to a spaghetti dinner — before they all went home to shower.
“This makes me proud to be the president of this college,” a weary Wolk said at day’s end.