Politics & Government
9:35 am
Mon May 21, 2012

Raleigh Volunteer To Get Award For Tornado Recovery Work

A Raleigh man is getting a national honor for his work in the aftermath of last April's deadly tornadoes. Al Mignacci will receive the U.S. Small Business Administration's "Phoenix Award for Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer."

Isaac-Davy Aronson: After a storm swept through downtown Raleigh on April 16th last year, Al Mignacci headed immediately to the Stony Brook mobile home park. His own North Hills home was relatively unscathed, so we went where help was needed. 50 homes at Stony Brook were destroyed, 98 were badly damaged, and four children were killed. The area was evacuated and cordoned off when he arrived...but he didn't go home.

Al Mignacci: I just rode up and down the street until I saw somebody outside working, and I just stopped and helped them for 2 or 3 days.

That, says Small Business Administration spokeswoman Carol Chastang, is characteristic of the selflessness that made him stand out among nominations from all over the country for her agency's award.

Carol Chastang: He just went to work, working sometimes 18-hour days in the heat or in the rain.

Mignacci, by the way, is 75 years old.

Al Mignacci: They opened up Stony Brook, and I got in there and started helping out there. And I've been there ever since. I'm still there.

An IBM retiree with a background in mechanical engineering, Mignacci started by patching roofs and sealing windows. Then he moved on to other repairs like cracked ceilings, and electrical and plumbing problems. Communication was sometimes difficult with the Stony Brook residents, who are mostly Latino immigrants. So Mignacci recruited translators from local churches. Eventually, he was coordinating the work of over 900 volunteers, to whom he's quick to give the credit for the area's transformation over the last year.

Al Mignacci: If you went through the mobile home park today, you wouldn't even recognize the fact that the tornado had gone through there.

That's left him with less to do at Stony Brook, which he says frees him up to do other things. On Friday, he was on his way to Fayetteville to assist in the search for missing Fort Bragg soldier Kelli Bordeaux.

Mignacci will accept the SBA honor at a ceremony in Washington Tuesday. He calls the award "unbelievable."

Al Mignacci: You know, when you get involved with something like this you don't expect anything in return, only the self-satisfaction that you get from helping somebody in need.