A volunteer carries some dead wood off a property in Corrales. Corrales residents, members of area churches helped clean up a resident's large yard in an effort led by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. (Courtesy Tom Plummer)

It was by no means the type or scale of disaster they’re used to working, but for members of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief cleaning up a 1.4-acre property in Corrales was good practice.

Members of that group, local churches, allies and friendly neighbors are cleaning up the property on a dead end street off Corrales Road in the woody bosque.

“The folks living there didn’t have the ability to clean up all the dead wood on the property,” explained Tom Plummer, who was enlisted to serve as project coordinator for the clean up. “Eventually, the village had to issue them a citation to remove the dead wood on their property due to the fire danger.”

Plummer said a neighbor heard about their predicament and understood the situation. She happened to be a volunteer with the relief organization and asked those in charge if there was anything they could do.

Piles of tree debris were stacked up at the side of a village road. Corrales residents, members of area churches helped clean up a resident’s large yard in an effort led by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. (Courtesy Tom Plummer)

Plummer said he received a call from Ed Greene, state director of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, who recruited him as project coordinator.

Calls went out to area churches. They organized a clean up on Saturday, Sept. 23, but it will likely take many more such days to finish the job.

Plummer, a member of Celebration Baptist Church in Rio Rancho, said about 16 people showed up that Saturday. The goal is to finish the job by Thanksgiving, but there’s a long way to go. He said after the Saturday word day, and countless hours volunteers put in prior to that day, they are about 20% of the way toward completing the job.

“We got a good start,” he said.

It takes a village

“This is not what we normally do,” said the SBDR volunteer who is also a neighbor of the property. “We have a team in Hawaii right now.”

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), an offshoot of the Southern Baptist Convention, typically responds to natural disasters, like the catastrophic tropical storm and resulting fire that swept through the Aloha State in July. 

The name of the volunteer is being withheld at her request, as is the name of the property owner, which she argued wasn’t relevant to the story. She said the real story is about people coming together to help their neighbors.

“It’s important to realize we’re all a community,” she said. “It would cost so much to do this, I can’t image how much.”

The woman said the property owner at first declined any help. But she knew they were facing intervening action from the village if they didn’t get it cleaned up. The yard was a disaster, by comparative standards, and the outcome wouldn’t be cheap.

“It was a jungle out there,” she said of the tangled mess of dead trees, branches and limbs. “But citing them wasn’t going to help anything.”

So she contacted the village herself to see if they could find a solution.

Both she and Plummer praised code compliance officer Sherie Rice.

“She has been very patient with all of this,” Plummer said.

The neighbor said that Fire Chief Anthony Martinez has also been a tremendous help, advising what needed to be done to get the property in compliance and ways to go about doing it.

“He’s been great,” she said. “He came by to look at the piles and gave us guidance.”

The neighbor and SBDR volunteer said the effort started before the clean up day. It started with a small group, but they quickly realized the task was too overwhelming. 

They’ve been chipping away at it, though, and a lot was accomplished during the clean up day. Volunteers used chainsaws to cut the big debris down to size. Much of it will be suitable as firewood. Others are hauling the wood to the side of the road where it can be picked up by others with pickup trucks.

“We’re only taking dead things out,” she said. “We’ll donate the wood when we’re done.”

While it’s been a lot of work, the woman said it’s been a joy to do the work. And it’s been gratifying to see people from different religious affiliations, kind-hearted neighbors and village officials join up to help someone solve a problem.

“It’s great because it’s the community coming together,” she said, evoking the “It takes a village,” slogan. “Corrales is a village, anyway.”

Want to help out?

Plummer said he’ll be on site most Fridays and Saturdays to assist until the job is complete. Other volunteers will be there Monday through Thursday.

Volunteers are asked to bring their own tools, wear heavy-duty footwear, gloves, eye and ear protection, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. Volunteers will need to sign a liability waiver for the property owner.

Anyone interested in helping out can call Tom Plummer at 505-906-5744. 

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