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An ill wind blows positive

by: Deborah Shimkus, 
Members of Lake Oswego Community Rowing form an assembly line to remove a downed tree at Vancouver Lake last Saturday. More than 30 individuals from the club traveled to Vancouver to help their rival team clean up following a tornado that destroyed two boathouses.

The rare tornado that pounded parts of Vancouver last week didn't cause any fatalities but it did have a devastating effect on the Vancouver Lake rowing team.

The team, which had a boat place nationally last year, had both of its boathouses and the majority of its equipment destroyed and, to make matters worse, it was uninsured as a way of keeping down costs to allow as many rowers as possible to be members.

Vancouver Lake was ground zero for the brief but powerful tornado that was the first recorded in the Portland metro area since 1972.

When Lake Oswego Community Rowing Club members heard about their rival club's plight at a meeting the following day, it seemed obvious what needed to be done.

So, on Saturday morning, more than 20 individuals, mostly teenagers, arrived at Vancouver Lake to help with clean-up.

The Lake Oswegans worked alongside their rivals and members from other clubs from all over Oregon, Washington and California, moving damaged boats and clearing downed trees.

'These are strong kids and it was great to see them use their muscles for such a good cause,' said Deborah Shimkus, Lake Oswego, who helped out at the event.

The sound of chainsaws could be heard throughout the afternoon as volunteers also helped build holders for new boats that were donated to the club.

'These rowers are so used to working together in boats that it was easy for them to get organized with the clean-up,' Shimkus said.

At the end of the day as a grand finale, teams from the Vancouver club took to the water in their new boat amidst loud cheers from volunteers. It will take awhile for the club to get back on its feet but Saturday's event was a good start.

For more information about Lake Oswego Community Rowing, contact either Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation or the Community School.