Branches of the Vine   Leave a comment

by Sylvia Sugg
On Monday May 4th our carload of volunteers headed off to Avon Park Boulevard, where we had been told to report. We got there and Tony, the site coordinator, said he didn’t have any work for us that day, and suggested we come back on Tuesday. We were given another address to try, and then another, and finally we found the house on Downman Road that could use some help. Lisa and I worked putting a second coat of mud on sheetrock tape, and I believe Barbara and Amy sanded.
On Tuesday the 5th we reported back to Avon Park Boulevard, where they welcomed us this time. There are two houses, one across the street and up a couple of houses from the other. Elise and Lisa went to one house and Amy, Makenda, and I went to the other, where we were put to work texturizing the ceilings. We had a generator at this house but it didn’t provide enough electricity to run the compressor needed to spray on the mud, so Herm, our boss, said "No problem, you can roll it on!" We did, but the mud did not go on well, and it was really time consuming and altogether unsatisfactory.  When Herm and Tony came to check on our progress, we told them the problems we were having. They took up the rollers and tried and then said, "This takes too long and does not cover well." They talked to a neighbor, made arrangements to plug into her electricity, and then we were able to run the compressor. Herm actually did the spraying, since this sort of bucket filled with mud and a spray gun had to be raised above the shoulders to do the work. The rest of us mixed mud and moved hoses and piles of stuff on the floor so Herm could keep moving. Once finished we went back to clean off mud that gets on the walls.
The next couple of days were mainly devoted to painting walls and then we painted ceilings and then there was the touch-up, since the walls were Bone White – kind of a sand color – and the ceilings were White. Sometimes one touch-up lead to another. As Alan Coe says, "that’s job security." On Friday May 8th, the final afternoon, Makenda and Kathryn (who had joined us Thursday and Friday) and I started laying laminant flooring. Across the street, Elise and Lisa were working on painting baseboards and doors, of which there were many.
What I really want to tell you about were the people at our job site. There were two men from the Mennonite Disaster Assistance, Rob and Ron. They were from Pennsylvania. Then Herm, Betty and Ken, and Tony were from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). They came from Ontario, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We were not sure if this was a church or an organization. It is a church. They volunteer for a minimum of three weeks a year, and most do more. Herm and Betty and Ken told us about some of the disasters they have worked at. Herm had quite a story about cutting trees in Texas. Ken had spent time in Malai distributing food. They were a wonderful group, very devoted to disaster relief.
They also had a schedule that we became part of. They took a break at 10:15. Lunch at 12:15. And another break at 2:15. We really looked forward to these times. We met at the house where Elise was working, because it had a front lawn and a wonderful tree to sit under. There were a few plastic chairs, 5-gallon paint buckets turned upside down, and the lawn to sit on. We gathered and sat in a circle. We talked about our work, we asked some questions about each other’s churches. One of the questions was whether they had any women pastors. They do, but only in the capacity of church education or as an associate pastor. We, of course, told about our Pastor, Susan. As the week progressed it seemed there was more conversation, more joking, and more interaction.
On Friday May 8th Dan and Bonnie, and Nancy, Barbara, and Michael came and joined us for lunch. Then all of us followed Michael around the interior of the house while he played "As the Saints Go Marching In" on his saxophone and we sang. We went in and out of rooms and then made a circle in the back bedroom. We sang Amazing Grace and then prayed for the owners of the house and for a good life in that house. It was all very moving, and Tony siad they had never been part of anything like that but really enjoyed it, and were happy to be part of the experience.
On Friday afternoon when we were finished with the clean up and helping to load up Herm’s truck, we all hugged each other and wished each other well. We had developed a little community there with that group and it was hard to say goodbye. I think, along with all of you who supported our efforts in New Orleans, we were the branches of the vine. We were reaching out, along with all the other volunteers, to help the residents of Little Woods.

Posted May 19, 2009 by NOLA-er in Uncategorized

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