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Teams' Efforts Get Conard Shelter Set Up in Record Time [Including Video]

Several hours before it was scheduled to open, shelter guests were being welcomed by Conard students and other volunteers.

The final decision to transition the shelter operation from the to was made at Tuesday morning's briefing at the .

Less than two hours after that meeting concluded, an army of volunteers, mostly student from Conard's fall sports teams, had arrived to assist.

Interim Fire Chief Gary Allyn announced at the afternoon briefing that "the set-up of Conard was the most amazing thing I've seen in a long time. The teamwork was fantastic; you could really tell that the students understood what it was like to be part of a team."

The girl's soccer team was the first group to mobilize, responding to text messages from team captains who had been called into action by head coach Nick Moffo. In total, about 25 girls soccer team members helped unload a truck full of cots and other supplies, setting them up in the subdivided gym areas for those who would be spending the night in the shelter.

A total of nearly 50 students, from girls volleyball, cross country, field hockey, cheerleading, football, and student government, also assisted with the shelter set-up.

"It was wonderful. If there was ever a moment where you just wanted to stand back and say how proud you were of these kids, this was it," said Conard Physical Education teacher Pam Moffo who also assisted with the set-up. "It was a tremendously heartwarming response, and something none of us will ever forget."

The shelter was originally slated to open at 6 p.m., but was ready much earlier due to the students' efforts. By 4 p.m., when Conard staff and PTO representatives as well as other volunteers from throughout the community arrived for an organizational meeting, student volunteers had already been briefed and were checking people in at the main entrance. Students were also stationed in the parking lot, assisting shelter guests with their belongings.

The Conard shelter is able to accommodate 300 people, with cots set up in the main gym that has been divided into three separate rooms. In addition, there is a small gymnasium area with a large number of available outlets where those who depend on electric machines can be situated.

Elmwood Community Center was initially used as a shelter because it has a generator which can take care of the majority of power needs of the building. However, the elevator was not operational, making the transport of those with ambulatory difficulties challenging in the multi-story facility.

Conard has more space, and the shelter operations are all on one level. In addition to the sleeping areas in the gym, there are shower facilities in the locker rooms, the cafeteria is available for food service and socializing, and the library is also open. Movies will be shown in the auditoriums during the evening. Classrooms are not accessible to those staying at the shelter.

Retired Fire Chief Bill Austin is managing the shelter, as part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Volunteers continue to be mobilized from Conard's staff and sports teams, as well as from the rest of the community.

Shelter guests are requested to supply their own bedding, and bring a change of clothing and medications. Shower facilities are available to shelter guests as well as other residents who are in search of hot water, however those using the showers must provide their own towels and toiletries. Anyone who has new toiletries that they would like to donate can drop them off at Conard.

Donations of games and books are also welcome. Conard history teacher Tracey Wilson and partner Beth Bye donated a supply of nearly 200 children's books that they had been collecting for a student trip to South Africa. Bristow Principal Andy Morrow arrived with a large bag full of games.

Once it was vacated, Elmwood Community Center was going to be cleaned. However, the cots there will remain set up in case the power supply at Conard fails and shelter operations need to be moved again.

K Joseph November 02, 2011 at 01:27 PM
I truly appreciate all at the town of West Hartford is doing for us. I especially love the frequent update calls from the Major with information on warming/power centers, C&LP information and WH School information. I feel that the town is doing everything it can at this point. Thank you.
Lori Bernard November 06, 2011 at 10:26 PM
I really appreciate the e-mails the town is sending with all the updates and helpful information. I am now commuting from Massachusetts, as I am displaced because of the storm, and it is difficult to get info from traditional sources. I agree with previous posts that the town officials, residents and volunteers are doing a great job under very difficult circumstances. Thank you.

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