The early springtime brings a lot of concern and “what ifs” for many area residents who reside in the floodplains. This year the
scare happened within the blink of an eye as steady rains rushed many rivers, creeks and lakes out of their banks. Residents who are at risk of having water in their homes packed up and moved their belongings to safer, drier areas, while others waited out the waters hoping the levees would hold.
Three hundred and fifty Winfield students were given the opportunity to help the community by volunteering to help sandbag during school hours. “It was really neat to see all of us work together. A lot of kids were working side by side others who they wouldn’t normally talk to,” said Emily Alexander, a High School senior. “We sandbagged from second hour until the end of the school day, with only a half hour lunch break,” explained Tana Neels, High School senior.
Reinforcing the levee was the most important part as the students went through truckloads of sand. It’s estimated that between the Middle School students and the High School, around 20,000 sandbags were packed and placed in strategic places to help the residents in the floodplains. Some students went back to work after school. “I helped until about 6:30 p.m.” said JJ Javaux, High School senior. Dalton Brockman said, “It was a lot of hard work, but it was worth it to help out.”
Middle school students were allowed to fill sandbags in the parking lot next to the school track during their allotted physical education period. They took part in contests teaming up with classmates and seeing which team could fill the most bags during their period. The sixth grade students were also allowed to fill sandbags in the afternoon. The middle school principal Mr. McCracken said that the school used it as a way to reward the students for all the hard work they were putting into the MAP Test. He also said that students were eager to help and that no encouragement was needed as the students genuinely wanted to help the community.
High school students took part in the process filling sandbags on the levee near the dam. By 11:30 a.m. the students had already filled four truckloads of sand into bags and were working on their fifth large pile of sand. Superintendent Dr. Chandler noted the fact that students were able to independently organize themselves and work together. They worked like a well-oiled machine, each student doing their part to help the community.
Once the students had filled the bags of sand they helped members of the community load the sandbags in the back of pickup trucks, on large flatbed trailers and even into boats. The Foley, Cap-Au-Gris, Winfield, Brevator and Old Monroe levee districts would like to extend a big “thank you” to the students and other volunteers who helped. Representatives of the levee districts could not express how much the students help was appreciated, sandbagging is not easy and they willingly gave their time.
Although the farm ground and eventually towns flooded, the effort achieved its goal of spreading out the “topping” of the levee and slowing the flood waters down, this also has prevented a lot of damage since there were multiple areas the water would have cut the levee badly. If the effort had not been given, the water would have been about 12 inches higher and cause for an even bigger struggle for those who reside in the floodplains. Efforts of this nature are never unnoticed and the community is grateful for such caring volunteers in the area.