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Marines work alongside civilian volunteers during a community outreach program at Duroville, Calif., hosted by the Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, Calif., Jan. 31. The Marines had to clear away debris created by the residents of Duroville when they were ordered to remove additions to their trailer homes that once served as spare bedrooms, car ports and porches, due to the fire hazards the construction caused.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

'Thundering Third' Marines give helping hand to needy

31 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

More than 45 Marines and sailors from Company K, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, teamed up with community members from Indian Wells and La Quinta, Calif., Saturday, at the Southwest Community Church in Indian Wells, as part of a community outreach program.

The Marines and sailors ventured to the city of Duroville, Calif., where the residents of the city were ordered to remove additions to their trailer homes that once served as spare bedrooms, car ports and porches due to fire hazards the construction caused.

“I was really excited when I heard the Marines were coming,” said Kevin Johnson, a pastor at the Southwest Community Church. “I know that they are all really hard workers with a good attitude, so I knew Duroville would get a good group.”

The additions had been removed, but the residents had no place or money to remove all the trash from the neighborhood. With no other alternative, the community created a large dump site and filled it with the wood, wall insulation, cement, pipes, trash and old furniture.

“All of it is wood and it’s all a big fire danger,” said Tom Flynn, the court-appointed property manager of the city. “There have been two fires at Duroville.”

The Marines, who worked alongside a handful of civilians, had to clear away the debris by throwing it into one of seven large dumpsters provided at the site Saturday. The Marines filled the bins within two hours, but needed dozens more to complete the job.

“It’s bittersweet because we wanted to come in here and to knock it all out,” said Sgt. Christopher Murphy, an information insurance technician stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. “Marines don’t like to leave a job unfinished, so we’re going to have to come back out and finish it.”

1st Sgt. Daniel Downs, the company first sergeant for Company K, agreed with Murphy, saying his Marines and sailors would have continued working if there were more bins to put the debris into.

“Unfortunately we ran out of dumpster space,” said the Ventura, Calif., native. “If we had more dumpster space we would have kept going.”

After the volunteers picked up all the debris they could, trash bags were passed out, and everyone got to work filling them with any paper and small garbage that would fit, furthering their progress.

“I think we made progress today,” said Johnson, a Dallas native. “We made a dent with all the trash that was hauled off, but I think we did even more than that. We made an impact on these people’s lives, and we raised awareness of what is going on in Duroville.

“Hopefully what we did will be a catalyst for others to get involved,” continued Johnson.

At the end of their day, the volunteers were invited to the homes of Duroville, where the families had prepared a home-cooked meal of tortillas, beef and rice to show their gratitude for all the help they received in their time of need.

Although the situation in Duroville is still unresolved, the positive impact made by the Marines and sailors, and the Southwest Community Church has left a lasting impression on the city’s residents.

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