After the Mission Trip: Volunteers clean-up after storm floods

 

Pictured Back Row:  Rev. Anita Mohr, James Davis, Vern Hall (SchoharieRecovery), Patrick Smith, Rev. Paul Herpich. Front Row:  Sheena Andereck, Chris Quentin, Dustin Hohall, Brandon Sylvester, Wendy Simcoe, Kris Hohall, Joshua Groves and Anita Myers.

Pictured are volunteers clearing debris along Route 30 between Schoharie and Middleburgh.

Submitted by Wendy Simcoe

(Morrisville, NY) Seven young adults and five adults from Morrisville, Baldwinsville, Liverpool, Dolgeville, New Hartford and Utica participated in an outreach to our neighbors in Schoharie County who are still suffering devastating effects from the floods brought on by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that hit last fall. The area was decimated by the impact of the storms.  Wendy Simcoe and Joshua Groves represented Morrisville Community Church in this work during Spring Break, April 10  to 13.

The Short Term Experience in Mission was organized through King of Kings Lutheran Church in Liverpool and Vanderkamp Christian Camp in Cleveland, New York.  The trip was sponsored by Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) and they contributed $500 toward its cost. Registration and fees for Wendy and Josh were covered by generous contributions from Morrisville Community Church and Joann Conrad.  LDR estimates the long-range plans for recovery in Schoharie County to be approximately three-to-five years.

The team spent the first and last night of their trip at Vanderkamp, and two full days working the site in Middleburgh near Schoharie.  While there we stayed at the Delanson Methodist Church, a small congregation big on hospitality and welcome.

Gary Roller from Lutheran Disaster Response and James Davis, director of Vanderkamp Center, prepared us in advance for the emotional nature of the work on which we were embarking.  During our orientation the first night, Gary stressed the sensitivity with which we should approach the survivors.  He shared that they were grieving an incredible loss of normalcy, of life as they knew it, of lost things, and even lost hope.  He explained that in their grief work some survivors would want to work with us, but some would be too worn out in grief and exhaustion and would not.  He told us that some may cry, and some may be very angry.  Our job, in addition to the clean-up we would do; was to offer our love, our support, and our understanding in their grief.  I was impressed with the depth of understanding by the young people regarding the emotional nature of the work we were entering, and their sincere earnestness in wanting to help make a difference in the lives of those hit by this disaster.

That evening we also watched a tape of an evening news special, After the Storm,  aired by YNN shortly after the flood waters receded.  It targeted the incredible devastation in Schoharie and Broome Counties and told how these people suffering from such devastation would never get back to ‘normal’ – they were rebuilding their homes and their lives, focusing on getting to a ‘new normal,’ one that protects against this kind of thing happening again in the future.   The video showed people concerned for their friends and families who were stranded in second stories and on rooftops.  It showed houses and their contents swept far afield, healthy trees uprooted, and bridges washed away by the flood waters.  Indeed, the area where we worked had a concrete slab where a mobile home had been, a house whose foundation collapsed, and a church that still had a watermark at the base of the roof rafter.  For many of the residents, everything they had worked so hard for all their lives was gone.  We learned that of the 200 families that lived in Schoharie, 100 houses had been condemned and 60 families had left.  Imagine having 50% of the houses in your community destroyed by flood, and one-third of your community leaving!

We adults who were privileged to be a part of working with this group of young people attributed much the success of them working together, to the preparation that took place before we left.  James, the director of the camp, did team building exercises that helped us all to get to know each other and encouraged us to work as a team.  There was also an understanding of the expectations regarding conduct.  One important aspect was an attitude of “no discount.”  There was an expectation that there would be no sarcasm or put-downs.  It was important for each of us to respect the other for our skills and abilities – and our weaknesses – since we all have them.  If someone could not do something or needed to take a break, that need was respected and honored.

We adults marveled repeatedly at the hard work and endurance of these young men and women.  They really cared about getting the work done, cared about the people they were serving, and felt good about being a “part of something bigger than ourselves.” For example: at one point someone found a small karate trophy with the owner’s name on it.  It was important to the group that it be returned to the owner; they realized that because s/he had probably lost everything – that this small memento might be more important than it may have seemed at the time it was awarded.  There was this level of care and understanding by the group that this was not just junk we were picking up, but pieces of people’s lives that had been destroyed.

 

For more information about this trip you may log on to: http://www.vk.org/wpsite/2012/04/17/stem-story/ .

For more information about the recovery effort, or to volunteer, visit: www.schoharierecovery.org

 

 

 

1 comment to After the Mission Trip: Volunteers clean-up after storm floods

  • Kristopher David Hohall

    Hello My name is Kristopher Hohall. The same one found in these photos actually. This was one of the most emotional times I’ve ever encountered and would come down in a heartbeat if needed. The air was so thick with emotion that my body was acting purely on just that… emotions. The first day i pop my muscle in my hand out of place and was asked to get it checked out. i popped it back in and continued to work. This team i was with persevered though exhausted and at night we never slept, just talked about the sights we witnessed and how much more we wanted to do.

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