Organizer Comes Up Big In San Jose's Time Of Need, Delivers Thousands Of Volunteers During Disaster

Deb Kramer believes in the power of the humble list.

Over the past 3 years, organizing cleanups for her non-profit, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Kramer has relied heavily on lists: checklists to make sure she has the equipment she needs, email lists to make sure she has the volunteers to do the job.

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So, Kramer knows the power of lists to get her day job done. But she had no idea what they could mean in a disaster. Until that is, there was one.

"When I saw it, I knew it was really bad," Kramer said.

On February 21, Coyote Creek overflowed its banks, flooding homes, neighborhoods and parks. The following day, Kramer went down to the creek she knows so well to survey the damage. She was shocked by the extent of flooding and damage she saw.

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"That was when I called the mayor's office and said, 'Hey, Paul. I'm here, let me know if you need any help,'" Kramer said.

"Paul" is Paul Pereira, a member of San Jose Mayor Sam Licardo's staff. He had worked with Kramer in the past and knew she could be helpful. He was surprised, though, how helpful she could really be.

"We are beyond grateful," Pereira said. "I don't think I can thank her enough."

Within a matter of days, Kramer provided the city with a checklist of equipment she would need and then she tapped her email list of willing volunteers.

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"In terms of the volunteers, over the course of 4 days we got about 1,200 volunteers just to go to three neighborhoods," Kramer said. Over the next three days, another 800 turned out. 2,000 volunteers in just 7 days.

The volunteers were sent into homes to clean out debris and into the creek to clean out accumulated garbage. Grateful homeowners were not only grateful for the help, but some even pitched in to help others once their homes were cleaned.

Kramer is quick to deflect praise for her work and point instead to the cooperation of the volunteers. Her role, she says, is simply as an organizer and coordinator.

Others however are more generous, believing that, on a list of people the city has to thank, Kramer should be right near the top.

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