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'Mudslingers' to the rescue! Volunteers help Colorado flood victims clean up

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By Joe Fryer, Correspondent, NBC News 

BOULDER, Colo. -- To Scott Hinerfeld, the name "mudslinger" is not an insult. In fact, it is an accurate description of the volunteer work that has consumed his life, and the lives of many others, since last week's floodwaters devastated Boulder, Colo.

"This is in our own backyard," Hinerfeld said. "The group of people that are here are the kind of people that would never just go on with their normal life while neighbors are hurting."

His group has been dubbed "The Mudslingers" because they are helping total strangers clean up flood-damaged homes that are caked in layers of mud. Officially, this community-organized flood relief venture is called Donate Boulder.

In the days following the flood, it started as a grassroots cleanup effort sparked through social media. But the group, which now features hundreds of volunteers, has turned into an organized system that finds flood victims in need and matches them with volunteers who are eager to assist with the cleanup.

Using Facebook and Twitter, flood victims can offer up information about what kind of help they need. Organizers at a makeshift dispatch center use that information to launch volunteers in that direction. Many of those helpers arrive within minutes.

Their efforts are now centralized around one primary website, www.donateboulder.org, which launched Thursday. The webpage displays a map that shows where volunteers are currently helping and where additional volunteers are needed at that moment.

More than a dozen people showed up to help clean Debbie Setlock's muddy basement, which was damaged by several feet of floodwater. One of her crawl spaces, filled with decades of mementos, was covered in mud. It looked more like a pig pen, but that did not keep a few volunteers from jumping in the tight, dirty confines so they could empty the space.

Without help, Setlock's cleanup would have probably taken weeks, but in a matter of hours, volunteers removed the carpet, drywall and most of her mud-covered belongings.

"I've just never seen anything like it," Setlock said with tears in her eyes. "Obviously, mother nature's very powerful, but when you watch what humanity can do, that's just as equal in my mind."

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About 16,000 homes across the region were damaged by floodwaters following last week's storm. Many are just beginning the process of cleaning up and assessing the damage.

Hinerfeld, who is self-employed and put his job on hold to help with the cleanup, hopes Donate Boulder can help speed up the recovery.

"This is for all the people that sit back and see natural disasters and things happen elsewhere, when they wish they can go and help but can't for one reason or another," he said. "It feels good."