The new workforce in Waterbury was formed after Mayor Neil O'Leary took a friend's suggestion to hire kids who are off from school — and possibly getting bored — to clear out City Hall and the schools, which are closed at least until Wednesday.
O'Leary put the word out, offering Connecticut's $8.25 hourly minimum wage. He said about 500 people, most between ages 14 and 18 with some adults mixed in, showed up at City Hall at noon Tuesday.
The offer is good again Wednesday, and O'Leary figures the workers will cost the city about $50,000. But he hopes the teens will get more than money in return, he said.
"We're giving them a little sense of community, a sense of pride," O'Leary said.
The Providence volunteers were rounded up by Serve Rhode Island in partnership with the United Way. The group recently deployed hundreds of people to help with Rhode Island's Superstorm Sandy cleanup, so it had a list of possible volunteers to alert. It also requested snow-clearing volunteers on its website.
Share Rhode Island Executive Director Bernie Beaudreau said the group has had some worries over whether people would pose as volunteers and victimize those they were supposed to help. But he said the much larger Sandy operation went well and he expected no problems this time.
"We're banking on the good will of others," he said,
Gonzalez, 40, said he's anticipating some aches for his efforts, but added he's glad to offer his time.
"Personally, I really love it," said Gonzalez, who helps manage his family's convenience store. "I believe that a blessing is useless if you don't share it."