When Dick Dunaway talks about Samaritan’s Purse, he talks about a circle — one that provides friendship, hope and prayer.
Dunaway is an 81-year-old man, who lives with his wife, Judy, in North Bend.
After historic mid-March flooding, the Dunaways were like many other North Bend residents who ended up with water in their basements.
The Dunaways got cleanup help from volunteers in North Bend and, later, from Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to people affected by disasters.
Dunaway was so inspired by the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers that he became a volunteer, too, and has helped others affected by the flooding.
And he plans to do more volunteer work to help people cleaning up after the flood.
Looking back, the Dunaways were at home when North Bend was flooded after a cutoff ditch 3 miles west of the city breached during the night between March 14 and 15.
“The entire town was under water. Many houses were high enough it didn’t get to those, but every street in town was flooded,” said Nathan Arneal, owner and publisher of the North Bend Eagle newspaper.
Dunaway said dirty water came up out of a sewer drain at his house.
“For three days, I was pushing water, trying to get it to go in the sump pump, but the sump pump couldn’t keep up with it,” Dunaway said.
The Dunaways had about 8 inches of water in their basement, which was set up like an apartment with a bedroom and kitchen and was a place where a granddaughter had lived for six months and a daughter for two years.
Two or three days after the flood, North Bend volunteers came to the Dunaways’ home.
“They did a great job,” Dunaway said. “They were trying to get most of the water out.”
North Bend volunteers carried out some furniture and most of the drywall.
“Samaritan’s Purse came a few days later,” Dunaway said.
Kathleen Esterly of Shelton, Wash., was the Samaritan’s Purse team leader, who guided the volunteers, which included her daughters, Tyra and Veronica.
Samaritan’s Purse volunteers tore out kitchen flooring, finished taking out Sheetrock and did general cleanup.
“They cleaned the floors real good,” Dunaway said. “They basically got it dry. They were there a full day. There were 16 people. Each one of them had a smile and did it from their hearts, because their minds were set to help those who were in need.
“I guess I was in need that day.”
Dunaway has been impressed by something else Samaritan’s Purse volunteers do.
“The amazing thing is after each place they’ve cleaned up, they formed a circle and prayed with the owner and gave us the hope of restoration and the good hope of God above—and that really triggered my emotions,” Dunaway said.
He found the volunteers to be inspirational.
“They inspired me so much I decided I wanted to go out one day with them at a different location and help clean up or whatever it took,” Dunaway said.
After the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers left his house, Dunaway went to Fremont Alliance Church, where a mobile unit is located, and joined up with the team that had worked on his home.
The group worked on three different properties at Waterloo. Dunaway helped sweep up at the properties, pulled nails out of walls and hauled out drywall.
He appreciated the opportunity to help.
“It gave me a good feeling,” said Dunaway, who will be 82 in June.
Dunaway spent a full day helping out as a volunteer. He planned to help at least a half day today.
Volunteers have shared that Dunaway has worked harder than any of them, said Leroy Wendt, assistant program manager.
But Dunaway is no stranger to hard work.
Dunaway was about 8 years old when he started delivering Fremont Guide and Tribune newspapers. He was 17 when he began setting pins at a Fremont bowling alley (before automatic pinsetters).
He served in the U.S. Navy for four years. For much of his career, Dunaway was a car salesman in Nebraska and California. His work experience also includes raising some livestock in North Bend and taking care of rental properties in Fremont, North Bend and Snyder.
Dunaway later drove a van for nursing home residents, transporting them to doctor’s appointments. More recently, he’s served as a breakfast and lunch host at a nursing home.
The area man will share his work history when asked, but more readily commends volunteers, like Esterly and her daughters.
“Both daughters and the mother worked very hard at all the places, including mine,” he said.
Dunaway appreciates the group’s willingness to work hard.
And he goes back to the circles that volunteers make, holding hands and praying.
“Having the Lord in your life makes all the difference of how we live each and every day,” he said. “The group we formed is like a ring on a finger. It’s a perfect circle and as long as we keep that ring on—that circle—we shall always be doing God’s work.”
He also wrote something about the volunteers in a small notebook:
“I found a family and a great joy by God letting me to be part of their circle. Thank you for being there for me.”