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Athletes lend a hand with flood effort

Not long after Morris Community High School let out early Thursday due to the rapid rise of flood water, things had gotten much worse at Elliott Manor and the Morris Hospital area. Almost as rapidly, student athletes from MCHS emerged on that scene to lend assistance.

It started out with a small group of kids helping out. They were moving and throwing sand bags at the housing high rise, and by mid-day, throngs of Redskins athletes also made their way to the area to lend assistance.

"Jason Matteson's mother called us and said they needed help," Morris football player Craig Claire said. "A  bunch of us starting coming here to bag and at the hospital."

"We're just some average guys trying to help the community," Claire's teammate Mike McNelis said.

A senior, Claire was a captain on the football team this past fall, and he certainly looked like someone who was taking charge of the Elliott Manor staging area. For hours he was seen driving his black GMC Sierra pickup truck from Elliott Manor to the City of Morris Municipal Building sandbagging station on the south side of town, picking up more volunteers along the way.

"It's not just me. A bunch of people have shown up right now to help," he said. "It's a Morris thing. When people are in need, you're going to come out and help them. It's the least we can do."

Waves of MCHS athletes started arriving on the scene at the Manor after being re-directed to the location from the hospital.

"The word is just going around that the hospital needed help. So I went over to the hospital and they said That Perennial Place has the hospital under control and they needed help over here," Morris baseball captain Jake Capko said.

"My dad (Sheldon) told me to come to the hospital to help," football player Reese Sobol said. "Once we got there, That Perennial Place told us they didn't need any more help there so we came over here."

Before long, three pickup trucks were shuttling back and forth from the Manor to the municipal building. From there, the numbers just continued to grow.

"I just got another text message from one of my friends saying that this building needs help," Capko said. "All of us are willing. I think it makes people feel good knowing that we're helping out."

Elliott Manor resident Barbara Kurecki attested to that fact first hand.

"They've been working here for hours. Kids from the high school. They've been been back and forth between the hospital and Elliott Manor helping," she said. "It warms my heart. They are busy at the hospital and we understand that. It's just kind of a shock that these boys all showed up at once to help. We're all so thankful for them that they came out and helped us."

While the kids were helping because of a sense of duty and community, Kurecki thinks that someone should reward their efforts in more than sandwiches and bottles of water.

"Somebody needs to buy them new shoes," she said. "All of their shoes are ruined. Them and the maintenance man and the lady in the office here at Elliott Manor."

To Sobol and the rest of that crew, though, their reward is simply in the caring.

"It's nice to see everyone come together like this. It shows the closeness of Morris," he said. "Everybody cares about everybody here. It's nice to see that Morris still has such a tight-knit community."

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