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'Snow angels' pitch in to help neighbors slammed by storm in Northeast

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 10:15 p.m.

BOSTON — With schools still closed, cars still buried and streets still blocked by the widespread weekend snowstorm, officials around southern New England are asking people to pick up a shovel and help out.

In Boston, a “snow angel” campaign is using social media to encourage neighbors and friends to be an angel and help dig out the stranded.

Hundreds of volunteers carried shovels to downtown Waterbury, Conn., after the mayor promised to pay minimum wage to anyone who helped clear the City Hall area and the schools Tuesday.

In Rhode Island, dozens of volunteers responded to a call by the volunteer advocacy group Serve Rhode Island to help clear snow.

Pedro Gonzalez of Cranston, R.I., had done three shoveling jobs for elderly residents by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

“You feel full, you know?” he said, speaking after his most recent job in Providence. “You feel real good and you sleep better.”

The snowfall Friday and Saturday buried the region in 1 to 3 feet of snow, and communities still are struggling to get back to normal.

The storm, blamed for at least 18 deaths across the United States and Canada, caused flooding that forced coastal evacuations in Massachusetts and carried high winds that downed trees and power lines.

By Tuesday night, more than 16,000 customers still were without power, including about 15,000 in Massachusetts, which was hardest hit with outages. More than 650,000 homes and businesses in eight states were without electricity at one point.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino's office has encouraged neighbors to help out neighbors after other storms, but this time it's using social media to create a “buzz” and spread the word more broadly, said Emily Shea, the city's Elderly Affairs commissioner.

Shea said most people who call the mayor's hotline for help clearing snow end up figuring things out themselves. But others don't, and the snow angel campaign aims to make sure they aren't forgotten.

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