Several UC Merced students pitched in Saturday, Jan. 28 to help people whose belongings were damaged when rains earlier this month flooded a storage facility.
Students from sports teams and on-campus organizations sorted belongings, hauled trash and cleaned up the Merced Mini Storage facility, alongside teams from the California Conservation Corps and Lowe's home improvement store. Merced Mayor Matthew Serrato also was on hand to help, and a local restaurant provided lunch for the volunteers.
A number of storage units at the West 16th Street business were flooded by record-breaking storms in early January. Volunteers helped renters discard damaged books, clothing, children's toys, furniture and more. They loaded appliances, blankets and more into large dumpsters that were emptied into waiting refuse trucks.
Some of the renters had been using their storage units for 20 years and had years of memories carefully packed away. Teams of volunteers followed the cars as they came into the facility, offering whatever help they could. Other volunteers distributed water and swept up after the storage units were cleared.
Among those helping was Favour Nnagi, 21, a third-year student from Patterson and a member of the UC Merced track and field team. He was no stranger to flooding problems.
"My car was flooded, so I know what it feels like," said Nnagi. His hometown is on Stanislaus County's westside, also was hard-hit in the storms.
His car is usable now, but "It still has a slight flood-water fragrance to it," Nnagi said. "I can't complain."
For the track and field team, and for several campus fraternity and sorority members, Saturday's effort was optional. But UC Merced softball coach Korynn Maravilla made it mandatory for her team.
A Merced native who also is an academic coordinator with the UC Merced Graduate Division, Maravilla said she thought it was a valuable experience for her players.
"Out softball team is not very well-known, and this is a way to get out there," she said. "Also, it's really important for us to get out in the community and help."