THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Challenges of cleanup seem to bring out best in neighbors

In Brockton, Manny Dossantos shoveled his front sidewalk yesterday while firefighters battled a blaze at his neighbor’s house. Dossantos discovered the fire at 261 West Elm St. just after 7 a.m., when he heard glass breaking and crackling and called 911. There were apparently no residents at home at the time, and no injuries were reported. In Brockton, Manny Dossantos shoveled his front sidewalk yesterday while firefighters battled a blaze at his neighbor’s house. Dossantos discovered the fire at 261 West Elm St. just after 7 a.m., when he heard glass breaking and crackling and called 911. There were apparently no residents at home at the time, and no injuries were reported. (George Rizer for The Boston Globe)
By Meghan E. Irons
Globe Staff / December 28, 2010

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With snow piled up outside, Tim Sheehan got to digging at 7:30 yesterday morning. He grabbed the snow blower and cleared the sidewalk and driveway in front of his Roslindale home. By afternoon, he was still clearing snow — though not solely on his property.

Sheehan spent most of the day carving long swaths on both sides of Sherwood Street, where he lives, leaving a smooth path for pedestrians and a lot less work for his neighbors to dig out.

It is the kind of good deed that was replayed all over the area, as storm-battered residents from East Boston, West Roxbury, and Cambridge came out in droves yesterday to dig out cars, clear sidewalks, and clean stairways. They loaned shovels, snow blowers, and time. They were neighbors, family, and strangers.

“We try to work together here,’’ said Sheehan, who showed no signs of slowing yesterday afternoon.

On a day when temperatures plummeted and the bitter cold stung, residents warmed to each other with kindness. It is a rapport that comes in a major crisis, some residents explained, when people hit by misery unite.

“I think people are actually friendlier in snowstorms than they are in summertime,’’ explained David Ferreira, a resident of Cambridge. “I’d rather have this than 95-degree, humid, oh-my-god your-sunglasses-are-fogging-up type of weather.’’

Ferreira loaned a shovel to his neighbor on Lee Street, a one-way stretch near Central Square, and used another to clear his driveway. He even lugged snow to a pile across the street, where it would not block vehicles. “I don’t want to block these poor [people],’’ he said.

Dave Morrison spent a good deal of his day helping out a stranger. For six hours yesterday morning, he helped his landlord clear 10 proper ties in East Boston. But when he saw Sonny Noe trying to free a snow-packed car on Saratoga Street, Morrison took action.

“I didn’t even know this guy,’’ said Morrison, shovel in hand. “I just walked over and started shoveling.’’

Noe, too, spent much of the day clearing out his own home and then his mother’s. He was working to clear his sister’s car when Morrison showed up.

“I just turned around, and he was here,’’ said Noe.

That neighborly spirit moved Dan Feinberg, a Tennessee native who spent much the day clearing off his West Roxbury street with neighbors. They greeted each other, some meeting for the first time, and took turns clearing snow for elderly and disabled residents on Ravenna Road and nearby Weld Street. It was a rare, and needed, welcoming for Feinberg, a new homeowner.

“This is the time I meet people that live three houses down that I never say hello to,’’ he said.

Digging out brought families closer, too, with everyone pitching in to clear the area before ice sets in.

Yvonne Roland, 43, of West Roxbury made a family day of it with her husband, brother-in-law, and son, Roger, 7, as they cleared the sidewalk and driveway at her three-family home.

“We’ve got the snow blower,’’ she said. “We’ve got a couple of shovels. And we’ve got the driveway cleared in time for work’’ today.

On hilly Fairmont Street in Hyde Park, John Harrington stood for a moment, facing the job of cleaning off 12 front steps at his 89-year-old mother’s garrison colonial. He had help from a neighbor with a snow blower, who would clear the driveway.

Not far away, a woman and son teamed up to keep snow piles off their property by heaping the white stuff onto their shovel and hauling it onto a grassy median on busy Truman Parkway.

“I’m getting it away from us,’’ said Yvonne Davis, helped by her son, Gregory. “Where are we supposed to put it?’’

Not everyone had help yesterday.

Kate Toye, fairly new to South Boston, spent an hour clearing snow from her car and dumping it onto East Sixth Street. She then took time to remove the snow from the street and place it into neat piles out of the way of traffic.

In East Boston, Chris Harris and his father, Wayne, cleared four cars on Lexington Street — including one belonging to a neighbor, who just had a baby and whose husband had not yet returned from work.

“I’m exhausted,’’ Chris Harris said.

But his father put the day’s events into perspective.

“It was a lot of work,’’ Wayne Harris said. “But we had to get it done.’’

Globe correspondents Brock Parker and Emma Stickgold contributed to this report. Meghan Irons can be reached at mirons@globe.com.