They knew they were there to help a hoarder clear all the junk from his four-room flat.
But the volunteers were not prepared for what greeted them.
The four-room flat was packed to the brim with so much junk that owner Tony Seah had to climb over little "hills" of items just to get to the kitchen.
One volunteer, Madam Sophia Goh, 40, found a neat stack of food plastic containers in the kitchen.
That sounds harmless enough until you hear her description.
"There were so many of them, they almost reached the ceiling," she said.
The volunteers included five others from the Rivervale Horizon Residents' Committee, led by Dr Koh Poh Koon of the PAP's Punggol East branch.
Seven foreign workers also helped compact the rubbish into containers.
Dr Koh, a colorectal surgeon who came across Mr Seah's case through residents' complaints about a year ago, said: "It wasn't easy to convince him, and I had to build rapport with him and befriend him before he was open to having us remove the items."
They rolled up their sleeves and started work at 9am on Sunday, but as the work seemed unending, they decided on only a 30-minute break for lunch and a 15-minute rest period.
Clearing the mountain of rubbish was not their only problem.
Madam Yatie Amin, 39, for example, found more than 10 standing fans and wanted to remove them, but Mr Seah was not too happy about it.
Ms Yatie, who works in the food and beverage industry, had to manually test every fan to show him they were junk. Only then could he be persuaded to let them go.
"We tried to be nice, but we had to be firm," she said.
At one point, to lessen Mr Seah's pain of watching his painstakingly collected items being placed into trash bags, Dr Koh had to "lure him" away for coffee nearby, Ms Yatie added.
Madam Goh, a part-time administrative assistant, said she had to brace herself for cockroaches, her biggest fear.
"They would suddenly jump out while we were clearing the things. It was quite frightening. Fortunately, there weren't any rats.
"I didn't see this, but some of them said there were cockroaches that have already rotted in the pile," she said.
Ms Yatie said: "We used so many trash bags that we lost count. We just kept on packing things in.
"It may sound simple just bringing the trash bags downstairs, but the heavier things like fans took a lot more effort to carry and we did it continuously for so many hours."
By the time they finished nearly 10 hours later, at 7.30pm, they had filled five big trash containers.
Madam Goh said everyone was relieved - and very tired.
"It was a great workout. Our muscles were all aching so badly that night, we couldn't sleep well. One of the volunteers even had to call in sick the next day," she said with a laugh.
This article was first published on Oct 23, 2014.
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