Team Rubicon spends holiday serving

Volunteers assisting residents with snow removal

ERIE, Pa. -- Team Rubicon volunteers have removed snow from more than 100 properties in Erie and Millcreek Township in a matter of days. 

As a result of overwhelming demand for clean up and snow removal assistance, the team doubled its numbers just in time for New Year’s Day.

After finishing his shift as a paramedic, Buffalo resident Shawn Brodzik traveled to to Erie County Monday morning with a different mission to help people.

"Pretty much went home, changed out of work clothes, grabbed my Team Rubicon gear, and came down here to help out,” said Brodzik with a large smile.

After historic snowfall, which has accumulated to seven feet in parts of Erie since Christmas, Team Rubicon is combining the military experience of veterans with the skills of first responders and other volunteers to provide relief efforts.

Brodzik said, "Just getting out there--the gratitude. It's something that no matter what I've done at work, no matter what I've gone with Team Rubicon, it never changes. It's what makes it worth doing." 

The team started arriving on Thursday with 15 volunteers. By New Year’s Day, the organization had 30 volunteers removing snow and coordinating from their base at the West Ridge Fire Department’s South Station. 

Some volunteers had come from as far as 400 miles away, according to Matt 
Sanders, incident commander for Team Rubicon in Erie County.

He said, "Yeah, you can go to the bar and have a great time and celebrate the New Year, but it's not the same type of great feeling you get when you walk away and say: 'Man, I spent a really hard week, but I've made a difference in a lot of people's lives."

Sanders, who lives in North East, said even with plans for the team to stay for two weeks, they would not be able to help all of the more than 600 residents that had requested assistance as Monday morning.

"We've extended it out to the 12th (of January); and so, we're hoping to get to at least half."

Sanders said the team was finding ways to become more efficient like using a phone app and software called Palantir to track work and teams in real-time. He said they were also trading shovels for snow blowers when possible.

"And it has made such a difference, because a machine is so much better than using your own back."

Knowing that their resources are limited, Sanders is encouraging people to look out for each other.

"Go back to your driveway. Look left. Look right. Do your neighbor's need help?"

Neighbors are helping neighbors from near and afar.

"It's that Rust Belt family we've got here with the Erie and Buffalo connection," said Brodzik.

Team Rubicon is helping residents who are most in need. Sanders said they are visiting areas by zones, and will visit other communities in the coming days, such as Fairview, Summit Township and Lawrence Park.

For those interested in learning how to get involved with Team Rubicon, a meetup is planned at Lavery Brewing Co. on Jan 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Individuals can support Team Rubicon’s efforts by dropping off snacks and beverages before Jan. 12 at the fire station, 4775 Sterrettania Rd, or by visiting https://teamrubiconusa.org/give/.


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