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‘Shovel Brigade Mob’ to dig out South Buffalo at 9 a.m. today

A volunteer group calling itself the “Shovel Brigade Mob” is planning to throw itself full force into the battle to clear snow away from South Buffalo homes and driveways.

Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. today at the Old First Ward Community Center, 62 Republic St., and head into South Buffalo neighborhoods for a day of snow-clearing and simply being Good Samaritans.

As of 7 a.m., more than 400 people had signed up to participate.

Anyone who is in good health and has warm clothing and a shovel is welcome to join the effort, said Laura Kelly, director of the community center.

“We’re working with the city and getting a list of people who need help, mostly concentrating on seniors, people with health problems and veterans,” Kelly said Friday. “We have about 180 volunteers signed up so far. I don’t know how many we’re going to end up with, but we’re going to head down there with some able-bodied people with snow shovels, who are willing to help.”

The Old First Ward neighborhood, which is close to downtown, has been fortunate not to have been heavily hit by this week’s storm, Kelly said. She said people from the Old First Ward, and elsewhere in the region, have expressed an interest in helping out where the need is greatest.

She said Susan Cholewa, a Buffalo community activist, has been helping to organize the effort. Social media is being used to gather volunteers.

Kelly was talking with city officials late Friday about how the volunteers can get deep into South Buffalo without getting into trouble over the driving ban in that part of the city.

“We’re hoping to work something out with the authorities, but if we can’t, worse comes to worst, we’ll just walk into South Buffalo and help,” she said. “We’re about a mile and a half from some of the hardest-hit sections of the city. If we have to walk, that’s what we’ll do.”

Kelly said people who are snowed in – especially those who are too old or too frail to shovel – can call the city’s 311 help number, or they can make requests for help by going on Facebook and posting their information on the “Shovel Brigade Mob” event page.

“I heard from an 83-year-old woman today in South Buffalo,” Kelly said. “She’s got food, she’s fine, she’s not in any trouble. She’d just like to be able to open her front door. We’re going to help her.”