Oso family’s home is hub for helping hands

OSO — Beneath the eaves of their covered porch are boots — lots and lots of boots.

Nearby hang jackets and coats with various reflective stripes.

The porch is a kind of transition zone where much of the outer-clothing worn in the contaminated debris fields is stripped off.

Inside, other garments are discarded into piles for a daily washing.

Nichole Stinson has found herself doing a lot more laundry since the March 22 landslide erased much of the hamlet that is Oso. Hers has been a tiny but necessary task in the whole scheme of things.

At the height of the days when local volunteers were used in the search, the Stinson home off Oso Loop Road seemed a bit like Grand Central Station with people coming and going, often on different shifts. At one point, 12 people — family, relatives and friends — were staying there and pitching in.

They did whatever work they were assigned.

Nichole’s husband, Corey, a Boeing employee, worked in the debris fields and helped with traffic control.

Five of the couple’s six children, ages 16 to 27, lent a hand. Four helped sift through the dirt for personal effects and other possessions that could provide clues where the missing might have been buried.

The Stinsons don’t crave attention. They figure they’re just a typical Oso family wanting to help others find their loved ones.

Nichole rattles off the names of several neighbors and recites their many contributions since the slide.

The hours so many have spent searching through the mud and dirt or helping in other ways only reflect what Nichole has known all along: Oso was and continues to be a place where neighbors look out for one another.

“It’s not really any different,” the family matriarch said. “Anything from needing a bike pump to ‘I broke down on (Highway) 530’, you can count on your neighbors. I don’t think that has changed.”

For Montana Stinson, who’s not quite 16, volunteer work was away from the front lines. He helped out at the Oso Community Chapel and with local firefighters in any way he could.

Morgan Stinson, 18, joined the Oso volunteer fire department a couple of months before the slide never anticipating it would be the epicenter of such a devastating event. He proudly wears his Oso Fire Department cap.

His time in the debris fields and working as a scribe at the fire hall monitoring the comings and goings of emergency workers has only added to his admiration for his fellow volunteers and others.

“It makes you feel good knowing you are part of something that’s making a difference,” he said.

He just hopes more can be done to locate the missing.

“We’ve got to find them,” he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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