It is a Herculean task.
But a Hampstead committee isn't using a river to clean up a royal mess -- it's helping an Illinois county clean up a royal mess caused by a river.
Friends for Flood Relief, a committee formed at the Aug. 16 Hampstead Town Council meeting, has adopted Hancock County, Ill. On Saturday, the committee will start collecting school supplies, gift certificates, nonperishable food, and toys for families devastated by this summer's floods.
The idea for the project came from Hampstead resident Bonni Crispin.
She said she and her family had seen the suffering of Midwestern flood victims on television and decided to do something about it.
If a hurricane destroyed our town, she reasoned, "Would people be there to help us?
"I think, yes," she said.
Bonni's mother, Fran Crispin, said the family had tried to locate a flooded Hampstead to adopt, but couldn't find one.
They selected Hancock County by looking at a map and seeing where the Des Moines River meets the Mississippi. They contacted the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service, and asked Hancock County extension agent Susan Sewell to pick out a small community that needed help.
Ms. Sewell said they all did.
So, the committee decided to take on the whole county.
Ms. Sewell suggested materials that will be useful to the stricken communities.
The committee is not collecting clothes, except for winter coats, hats and other cold-weather gear.
They are seeking back-to-school supplies, children's books, learning toys, games and sports equipment. They also are collecting nonperishable food. Holiday items, such as Christmas ornaments, will come in handy for families who cannot yet turn their attention to such trimmings.
Gift certificates for Hancock County stores -- including Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Kmart and Sears -- are on the wish list. Gift certificates will allow recipients to select what they need most, Ms. Crispin said.
She said donated items should be in decent condition.
"These people still have their pride," she said. "Even though they want things, they just don't want our junk."
The Hampstead committee includes area old-timers, as well as representatives of homeowners' associations in the town's newer developments.
"One of the best parts of all this is, I've gotten to meet these people," Ms. Crispin said. "I'm getting to see what's inside these newer communities."
"There is a lot of tension" between the town's newer residents and those who have lived there longer, she said. "I'm hoping that it does bring the old people and the new people closer together."
Ms. Crispin said her feel for community service dates to her years in 4-H.
Ms. Crispin, 22, works at Leggett's in Westminster. She has an associate of arts degrees from Carroll Community College in education and business administration, and says she may return to college to study public relations.
"I'm put on this earth to promote and volunteer," she said.
Two collection sites will open the week of Sept. 11.
Items may be dropped off at a collection site in an empty store in Roberts Field Shopping Center, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Items also may be taken to a site in the empty store next to St. Mark's Lutheran Church on Main Street. That site will be open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Financial donations may be mailed to Union National Bank, c/o Friends for Flood Relief, 1631 N. Main St., Hampstead, Md. 21074.
Friends for Flood Relief also needs volunteers to staff the collection sites. To volunteer, stop in at one of the sites.
Ms. Crispin said the committee needs volunteers to drive the gifts to Illinois, where they will be distributed by Ms. Sewell.