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Montana Rescue Mission continues to deal with the aftermath of a broken water main that left about 2 million gallons of water in the basement of the charity’s Minnesota Avenue facilities. But community support is spreading the workload.

Volunteers from local businesses, churches and other groups worked with MRM staff Wednesday to move many truckloads of clothes and other goods from the water-logged buildings where they were stored.

The merchandise was not housed in the lower levels where water up to 12 feet high left the contents unsalvageable. The volunteers rushed to move the clothes and other items of value to MRM’s two retail locations before the humidity and dank stench in the building ruined them.

Skyview High School football coach Ron Lebsock was on hand with a couple of his players doing some of the heavy lifting.

Lebsock said the team had a strength training session Tuesday night, and the coaches learned of MRM’s need for help during the meeting. Skyview students are required to complete volunteer hours, but the players who worked on Wednesday had already fulfilled their obligation. They just showed up to help.

“They’re getting a good workout again. That’s another positive out of it,” Lebsock said.

The Wednesday effort was the beginning of what will be a long process to deal with the mess left from the flooding.

“I’ll be shocked if we get it all done today,” said Denise Smith, MRM’s public relations officer. “We’re going to be coming out from under this for a couple weeks.”

Smith said guests moved back into the men’s shelter Tuesday night, but the older buildings next door are still without electricity and water. An electrician will evaluate the old Granny’s Attic building’s wiring to determine what needs to be done before power is restored.

Smith said getting the building hooked up to city water again could prove too costly, and the charity may choose not to re-establish service.

“We’ve got to evaluate the cost of fixing the building versus not fixing the building. You have to evaluate the cost just like if you totaled your car,” she said.

The dining area in the basement of MRM’s men’s shelter was in the final stages of a remodel when the water main break dumped 18 inches of water onto the kitchen’s fresh concrete. The kitchen was within weeks of being operational and will need new drywall and flooring work. During construction, meals were being prepared next door. With food service impossible in both buildings, the community meal program paused over the weekend.

Service has resumed on the sidewalk in front of the shelter, but the offerings are limited to food like sandwiches that don't require a full kitchen. Local churches and people from the community donated a lot of the meals, Smith said.

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General assignment reporter for the Billings Gazette.