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Chesapeake Members Join Hands to Help Hurricane Victims
By C. B. Juneau
They came months, even years ago, leaving in their path destruction, devastation, and thousands of broken hearts and lives. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as Gustav and Ike are gone now, but the broken homes and lives remain.
A team of 12 caring and compassionate members from across Chesapeake Conference, joined by two members from Virginia, traveled to Louisiana over the Thanksgiving holidays to help repair several homes and bring joy and hope to fellow Adventists in an area just north of New Orleans.
An active member of the Chesapeake Conference disaster response team and Spencerville church member, Clayton “Chip” Flowers, went ahead of the rest of the group to assess the projects and ensure needed building supplies were on hand. His assessment was, “the jobs are more involved than we anticipated, but with hard work we can make a difference”.
Hard work, indeed! The team divided into two working groups and set off at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the day after a 20-hour drive to Hammond, La. For six days the day began at 5:30 a.m. with breakfast and worship, ending well after dark. After showers and dinner, team members planned for needed tools and supplies for the next day’s task. Lights were out by 9:30 p.m. Rest was more than welcomed!
Team 1 was assigned the task of removing a damaged and leaking tin roof. The damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina years before left crumpled tin as well as rotting joist and support beams. A construction contractor, Jeff Goldner from Wilmington, Del., headed the team which included his 13-year old son Andy Goldner, Spencerville members Matt Reynolds and Olga Messenger, a senior at Spencerville Adventist Academy, Nancy Thomas from Reisterstown, Md., and Eugene Clem from the Providence church in Elkton, Md. In what seemed an amazingly short period of time, this mighty team had the old tin removed and hauled off. They rebuilt the beams and supports, added plywood and tarpaper before the rains came. The next day the sun was high and so was the temperature at 70 degrees. Jeff along with Lavida Whitson, the South Louisiana Conference Adventist Community Services (ACS)/Disaster Response director, was able to locate the necessary rubber-based material to cover the flat roof. Soon the flat roof was water-tight and the shingles were applied to the A frame. Nancy was given the nickname of “Machine Gun Nancy” because of her skill with the roofing gun! On Thanksgiving Day when we went to take pictures of the finished project the owner came out to thank us, saying, “ You have not only given us a wonderful Thanksgiving gift, you have given us hope. It is good to know we have a secure roof over our heads and don’t have to catch the water in pots and buckets any more. We are so grateful!”
Team 2 went to Bogalusa to rebuild a small apartment attached to an Adventist member’s home. Visiting pastors and evangelists used the apartment. This area needed to be rebuilt inside and out. It had been sitting in disrepair since Katrina. Others had made an attempt, but either gave up or ran out of time. Our Team hit the place with a vengeance, ripping out and rebuilding. Windows were cut in, framed out, and set, wiring and plumbing jobs were done. It seemed so many things had to be reworked before the job could move forward. It was a natural progression of events for the group to evolve into two smaller groups, interior and exterior. Chip Flowers oversaw the huge exterior project starting at ground level working to the roof, while still giving support to the interior team from time to time. The exterior walls were replaced from the concrete pad and covered with Tyvek. Goldner and his team joined the exterior group and covered the exterior with siding, covered the trim, and added gutters.
J.W. Sawdy, a blind contractor from Lancaster, Va., headed the interior team. Sawdy entered the room visualized it in his mind and never missed a beat, moving as vigorously as any other team member around tools, lumber, ladders, cords, and a host of other necessary supplies. He was a contractor for 33 years before losing his sight. He still works with perfection in that profession, although he now depends on others to measure and cut, “under his watchful eye”! The interior group did plumbing and wiring, hung drywall and ceiling throughout the apartment applying the mud and tape as well. The members of Team 2 are Flowers, Sawdy, Ernie Goldner, from Wilmington, Ann Reynolds from Spencerville church, Clamon Price from Providence church in Elkton, Md., Zola Green from Gloucester, Va. church, Ashton Wheatley from Cambridge (Md.) church.
Kitty Juneau, Spencerville member was pressed into service as cook for the group and others when the volunteer cook was unable to make the trip. Three meals a day for 16 people is no little feat. She prepared hot breakfast, packed lunches, and a hot dinner each night. All meals were prepared in the Louisiana Conference center kitchen.
Each team member voiced they would like to do this again and felt this mission of service was a blessing to them as well as those whom they served. The group provided 980 volunteer hours of service on these projects.
For more information About Chesapeake Conference Disaster Response projects or how you can donate to help support the training and trips of this ministry, contact Evelyn Gates, ACS Director at the conference office at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kitty Juneau, Disaster Response Director at email@example.com.