Volunteers in Mission

Extending Outreach Around the World




“Be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things.” (Joel 2:21)

This is the motto for your 2009 DUMC Volunteers in Mission (VIM) team which is headed back to Louisiana / New Orleans Jan. 10th to 18th.  Thanks to the generous donation of one DUMC family and the support for and the work of the Tongues of Fire BBQ team, the VIM program is very strong financially this year.  What is needed now is your physical presence.  Skilled or unskilled, we’ve got a job for you.  Along the way we’ll meet some interesting folks, eat well, eat well, eat well and be doing God’s work on earth.  Don’t think that you can’t help or that you’ve not got the time.  Come and learn how to roof a house or drywall a home.  Maybe you just want to smash down a wall.  As for time, many of us are still working and find that this period spent working for the Lord rather than for ourselves is the most rewarding that we’ll do all year.  Contact Blair Smith at 410.798.7236 or for more details or to join the VIM team mission in January.

DUMC participates in two major volunteer programs, Volunteers in Mission (VIM) and the Appalachian Service Project (ASP).  Here are some summaries of past trips.  Photos are available under the VIM category of the photo gallery.

Moss Point, MS 2006



On March 4, 2006, the second Davidsonville UMC Volunteers in Mission (VIM) Team departed for Point Moss, MS.  Our VIM Team in support of Moss Point recovery included:


·        Erik Andrews

·        Joe Emert

·        Barbara Emert

·        Ken Fowler

·        Blair Smith

·        Joann Smith

·        Roger Vales

·        Vonda Vales

·        Marta Syzmaszek


Center Daily Summary for Day 1 - Sunday, March 5


Everyone has made it down to Moss Point, MS without undue incident. The timing couldn't have been better, as we arrived from different directions literally within 15 seconds of each other. Two vehicles: The church van with 7, and pick-up with 3 more.


We had a chance to go to our first work sites today, and even do a little paint and electrical installation.


Saint Paul UMC, where we're staying, has a big warehouse type building out behind the sanctuary and the classrooms in it have been converted into bunk house rooms. Right now we're the only ones in the 'bunk rooms', which gives us plenty of space (for now).


Dinner was prepared by Jacob and his wife Barbara and they're going to be cooking for us all week. We're quite blessed to have these two care so well for our tummies!


The roofin' and sheet rock start in earnest tomorrow.


Here are a few photos to further document our work.


Marta doing some painting of cabinets


Roger doing outlet work


The (former) Pascagoula Racket & Tennis Club



Center Daily Summary for Day 2 - Monday, March 6


Breakfast @ 7am: Biscuits and gravy, muffins, scrambled eggs, grits, fruit, juice.

Lunch: Sandwiches, Chips, Drinks

Dinner @ 6pm: BBQ Night: Lots of pulled pork BBQ and sides: cole slaw, potato salad, beans, rolls, tossed salad, peach cobbler.

Meal Ratings: ***** (five stars out of five)


We had 35 additional people here to eat with us today from Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, KY. Very nice group down here on spring break.


Topic today: Gnats win! Gnats win!


No, I'm not referring to the Washington National's baseball team in spring training (although they did win last night), but rather to the intense numbers of gnats on the worksites today. Particularly in the afternoon, there was nothing that would stop them. No Cutter's, No Skin-So-Soft.... It was a fairly warm (75 deg) day with some humidity and little wind. Argh!


By the end of the day there were many folks with many, many, small red welts on their arms, face, and all other exposed skin.


In particular, Erik seemed to be a tasty treat for the gnats, as he even resorted to wearing a jacket on such a warm day to protect his arms! It was very uncomfortable - all the bites that is.


We organized into teams as follows:


Team 1: Roger Vales, Joe Emert, Blair Smith, Joann Smith

Charlie Byrd's house. Remove and replacing sheet rock and insulation that was damaged during flooding. Remove wall. Refinish. Tuesday looks to be more finishing work.


Team 2: Vonda Vales, Barbara Emert, Marta Syzmaszek

Uncle Ken. Painting and finishing. This house has gotten some good work over the past couple weeks and is getting close to complete.


Team 3: Ken Fowler, Erik Andrews

Walter Daniels home. A new roof is in order. Half the roof was replaced last week. We'll do the other half this week.


Here are a few more pictures from the trip so far.


Vonda and Barbara clean up after the day's painting


Sleeping quarters for the ladies - bunks in the house


Trent Lott's (former) house, right on the Gulf in Pascagoula


Ken Lancaster (coordinator) and Jacob and Barbara who are cooking for us all week long!

Tonight was BBQ with multiple sides and peach cobbler (Ken Fowler's request) for dessert!


The view from the 'balcony' where the bedrooms/bunks are, down onto the floor of the building where we eat! (And can play some basketball!)


Center Daily Summary for Day 3 - Tuesday, March 7

Breakfast @ 7am - Egg/Bacon/Cheese Biscuits, scrambled eggs, grits, bagels.

Lunch - some (leftover) BBQ and sandwiches and chips (and popsicles!)

Dinner @ 6pm - Italian Night - Spaghetti and Meatballs, Fried Chicken, italian bread, tossed and fruit salads, a variety of cakes and banana pudding for desert.


Meal Ratings: ***** (five stars out of five)


We had the 35 from KY Wesleyan with us again for dinner. (They are staying at another church, but that church doesn't feed them, so they come eat at St. Paul UMC where we're staying *and* eating!) Additionally, for all meals today, we had the enjoyment of a group of 8 from Americorps who are temporarily working with us until their planned assignment is ready (next week). The Americorps folks sleep in another local church that also doesn't feed them...


Topic today: Good Eats.


Saint Paul UMC is a church that has approximately the same sized congregation as Davidsonville UMC does. Each week, about 200 folks grace the pews. With that size it is remarkable to me (and a blessing to us and the community) that they are able to cook and serve so many people each evening. It is a major undertaking and Jacob handles the coordinating of the volunteers and closely supervises the kitchen work. All meals are made from scratch - it is really amazing.


Today, dinner was served for about 60 people. And it was delicious, just as all the previous meals have been.


Update on the gnat situation. Today was low humidity and did have a breeze. These two elements really helped keep the gnat attention to a minimum!




Three work crews again today:


Team 1: Barbara Emert, Vonda Vales

These ladies finished painting in Ken's Uncle's house their house. There is some electrical work and flooring to do before it's finished completely, and that will happen soon.


Team 2: Roger Vales, Blair Smith, Joann Smith, Joe Emert

Charlie Byrd's house: Lots of material was removed from the house and out to the curb for the dump truck when it does come... While the removal of old/broken items was going on, sheet rock, and more were ongoing to bring the house back to life. Mr. Byrd lives in his FEMA trailer in the front yard these days and is looking forward to getting back into his house by the end of the week.  This team had a group of 4 from the Americorps group join them for the afternoon work and debris removal.


Team 3: Ken Fowler, Erik Andrews, Marta S

This team finished it's first roofing job (Walker family) and got started on the second (bigger, more difficult) job at Stephanie's house. The team was aided by three Americorps workers who did a great job helping put on shingles and finish the first job.


Walker's Roof: The Roof Team started work Monday on Dennis Walker's home. The task: Removing old shingles and tarpaper, re-papering and re-shingling the part of the roof not done last week. This half of the house consisted of the family room and the carport. The entire roof is a "3-12" or "4-12) roof, so the steepness and risk of falling are very small, and everyone has sure footing.


And today’s group of pictures:



This is why we serve.  This man, with terminal cancer, is thankful for
being able to get into his home of several decades.  His niece Linda is
with him, helping complete the many tasks needing attention before he can
'leave' his FEMA trailer...





In Charlie Byrd's home, new insulation and sheet rock is going up. Our coordinator, Ken Lancaster is there to check in on everyone and see that we're ok



Ken Fowler, looking very satisfied with a bowl of banana pudding (before! his dinner!)



First roof down! The Walkers' home has a new roof. Yea!


Center Daily Summary for Day 4 – Wednesday, March 8


Breakfast @ 7am - Pancakes, Sausage, Ham, Bacon, Fruit, Juices.

Lunch - Meatloaf sandwiches (and Wendy's fare for the 'roofers')

Dinner @ 6pm* - Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and gravy, corn, biscuits and a variety of cakes for desert.


Meal Ratings: ***** (five stars out of five)


None of our group was there for dinner when 6pm rolled around. Per plan, Blair, Joann, Joe, Barbara, Roger, Vonda and Marta headed west to Waveland/Bay St. Louis and New Orleans. The first to drop off a sewing machine and show others where they'd been last time. The recovery continues, but is quite slow, as Roger described it upon his return home this evening.


Topic today: The Big Easy.


Reports were unanimous that a good time was had by all, and the tourism trade continues to serve the curious shopper in all of us. Roger or Blair or Joe will need to report on this in a future issue.


The Gnat Report: No significant sighting of gnats today due to the high winds. (yeah!)




Two work crews today:


Team 1: Roger Vales, Vonda Vales, Blair Smith, Joann Smith, Joe Emert, Barb Emert, Marta S.

Charlie Byrd's house: Continued repair from the flood damage before knocking off at Noon to head west.


Team 2: Ken Fowler, Erik Andrews

This team had 7 young Americorps folks with them. It helped the room move along, but they're not finished. Maybe Friday.


And now some more pictures:


Left To Right - Marta, Roger, Joe, Joann, Vonda, Barbara, Blair enjoy their stop at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans


Vonda displays her fancy new chapeau as they shop in the French Quarter


Marta is a big fan of stuffed animals - and Alligators in particular! And hey! Where did you get all those beads?


Left to Right: Blair, Joann, Marta, Charlie Byrd, Joe, Barbara, Vonda. The group pauses for a picture on a pleasant MS spring morning. This team is replacing the sheet rock and doing extensive clean-up at Mr. Byrd's home. 


Back in the Big Easy, Marta admires another alligator!


Barbara and Joe pause for a moment during their stroll down Bourbon Street.



Center Daily Summary for Day 5 – Thursday, March 9


Breakfast @ 7am - Scrambled Eggs, Sausage, Ham, Bacon, Biscuits, Juices.

Lunch - For Roofers, Subway. For Sheet Rockers - Last night's leftovers, sandwiches.

Dinner @ 6pm* - BBQ Night. BBQ Ribs, Sides: Corn, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, Potato Salad, biscuits. Plus Banana Pudding and lemon cake for dessert! Wow!


Meal Ratings: ***** (five stars out of five)


Today was our final day sharing the dinner space with 35 college age adults from Kentucky Wesleyan who are here on their final evening before returning to KY tomorrow. It has been fun to see/meet/visit with them during dinners the past four evenings.


Super Bonus: Following our dinner, Joe, Ken, and Erik ventured out to Wal-mart and Lowes for a few supplies. On the way home, we came across Edd's Ice Cream. This is a throwback ice cream establishment that is still serving large portions at very reasonable price. All four of the boys ordered large items (two large Hot Fudge Sundaes, One Banana split, one large dipped cone) and the bill was still under $9! (Take that, Cold Stone! and Maggie Moos!) We'll be back there tomorrow for sure! (Erik says this is an ASP-like ice cream shop!


Weather report for the day (Thursday): Stong thunderstorms throughout the afternoon and evening. 40 mph winds! Needless to say, the roofers were approaching the day with some uncertainty in their situation...


Topic today: Radical Roofing.


The work on Stephanie's roof continues. Erik in particular is concerned that the current tar paper covering which exists on three sides of the house is going to be damaged or blown off during the high winds expected today. And that will pave the way for lots of rain to enter the house. The best thing to do is to get as many shingles onto the roof as quickly as possible. Divided into two pairs, the group got two nail guns going and really made good progress - Ken and Erik on the 'valley' side(s), while Marta and raced up the east side - all before lunch. After a quick lunch at Subway down the street, with ominous skies in the west and gusty winds to 30 mph, the group picked up the pace even further - including cutting and roofing around four different vents - in no time flat. Ken worked the valley to perfection while Marta stayed on the other gun handling both sides into the valley as they moved up the roof quickly. Erik delivered many bundles of shingles to the roof to keep them flying. Despite the dire forecasts, no rain actually materialized (other than a few spits here and there) at least by 5pm when the Radical Roofers declared success and headed home for the day.

Friday will include finishing shingles on the North side (currently tar paper covered) and also starting and finishing the remaining section of roof on the south side. That should be one final great day for the roofers.


The Gnat Report: No gnats fly in 30 mph gusts. They stay home and watch gnat-TV!




Two work crews today:


Team 1: Roger Vales, Vonda Vales, Blair Smith, Joann Smith, Joe Emert, Barb Emert.

Charlie Byrd's house: Continued repair from the flood damage. The kitchen (easily the hardest of the rooms) was completed today and only two small rooms remain to be worked to the sheet rock level.


Team 2: Ken Fowler, Erik Andrews, Marta S.

See the notes above on Radical Roofing.


The day’s report would be incomplete without the usual pictures, so:



Indeed, the Kubota's front bucket proved to be a very useful shingle disposal location for Ken and the others!


The trash shingles and tar paper could be placed in the dump pile which was wonderfully cleared away on Tuesday morning.... So yes, in addition to putting shingles "up" in bundles, it also facilitated easy removal and dumping! The Kubota was worth it!


For reasons unknown to us, there were 3-4 layers of tarpaper on this part of the roof. Nevertheless, they all had to come off - and they did.


Ken prepares to lay the flashing into the valley and tar-paper - replacing the damaged version that was there.



There is much to do on this house!




Bay St. Louis, MS 2006

A six member DUMC Hurricane Katrina Disaster Recovery Team will depart the church on Saturday, January 7th for a nine day VIM (Volunteer in Mission) trip to Bay St Louis Mississippi. The DUMC team will join with other team members from St Matthews UMC Bowie, Maryland; Faith UMC Rockville, Maryland and Otterbein UMC Hagerstown, Maryland. 


Irene Schneider of St Matthews UMC is the trip organizer and leader.  The trip was arranged through the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, VIM office http://gbgm-umc.org/vim and the Mississippi Conference, United Methodist Church, Disaster Recovery Ministries.


DUMC Team Members


Pastor Jim Stutler                               Rusty Lamar

Blair Smith                                         Vonda Vales

Susan Lamar                                      Roger Vales

Departure Arrangements
Departure: 6 am Saturday January 7th Dave Toms will drive himself
and meet us in Chattanooga; Davidsonville Folks will drive separately
and meet up with us in route; Hagerstown and Rockville folks will join
the group from St Matthews to depart. Drivers will have cell phone;
their numbers are listed on the team roster. Irene Schneider, Pat Eagen,
Jim Stutler and Dave Tom's numbers should be used for the trip down & back.
We will be traveling 600 miles to
Chattanooga the first day and then
about 600 miles more the next day to Bay Saint Louis. With the time
change in
Mississippi we should arrive under day light.

First night lodging is in
Chattanooga, TN at the La Quinta Inn, 7015 Shallow Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421. Phone 423.588.0011. Directions:  I-75 S-bound take exit 5, right on Shallowford Road, right past the light. Reservations are guaranteed for late arrival on Jan 7th.   We will use the same hotel for the return trip arriving there January 14th.


Bay St Louis lodging


The team will be staying in the Morrell Foundation’s “iCare Village” located in Waveland, Mississippi.  The village was built to aide the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.  The village consists of one main 10,000 square foot structure and many other smaller structures spread out across the site.  The village is a fully functional center, equipped with utilities such as electricity, water, sewer and air condition.


Why our iCare Village Is Needed

The hurricane survivors need emotional support. As the survivors start to put back their lives one piece at a time they will need a sense of community and a break from the harsh aftermath of the storm. The Morrell Foundation’s, iCare Village is a community center where people can enjoy the support of each other and the guidance of volunteers. The Village will host weekly events like concerts, holiday celebrations and games for children. Additionally, the Village will host Monday Night Football and movie nights in a media room. The village can be used to host any need of the community from a church meeting, a child’s birthday party, or an art class.

The need for basic essentials. The iCare Village serves three meals per day to the community and volunteers and also hosts a medical facility to treat minor injuries and ailments. The Village has bathrooms and shower rooms, and a laundry facility. Additionally, the iCare Village has a business center providing internet access.

They can not rebuild without volunteers. The devastation that resulted from Hurricane Katrina will take many years and even more volunteers to make an impact. Unfortunately the volunteers who are selflessly donating their time and hard work have no place to stay while on their mission. The deserted parking lots that were once home to these volunteers are becoming sparse due to many shops reopening their doors. The iCare Village serves as a volunteer headquarters for the thousands of volunteers coming to serve.

Click here for a USGS overview of the devastated area.  Also, please click here to see before and after photos of the Mississippi coast.





·        United Methodist Men               $  750

·        Care and Nurture                      $  200

·        Vim Offering                            $  685

·        Tommy Tucker                         Van and Trailer ready to go

·        Mary Snyder                             Generator


Day One


The Drive


January 7, 6:15:   Erik Andrews is at church to see the VIM team off and take departure picture.  Vonda is not yet a wake as the picture shows.  Roger led off the driving going right thru the Nations Capital, past the Pentagon and out Hwy 66 to 81.  Stopped at Strasburg, VA for coffee and a driver change where we ran into our St Matthews UMC team members.  Blair took over the driving and Pastor Jim took over the back seat in the van for a long, long nap.


After our 1st stop for gas fill-up, Blair spotted a sign for the “Three Li’ll Pigs Barbeque” restaurant.  It being only 11:00 we were the first customers of the day.  We all tried the North Carolina style BBQ pulled pork.  Vonda gave it a D+, the rest of us only slightly better marks.  Way too much vinegar!  Virginia BBQ is always suspect, but tomorrow we’ll be in Alabama or Mississippi at lunch.  Those folks know BBQ!


The 9.2 miles per gal we are getting in the old church van has our financial officer, Blair, in tears-- that’s the bad news.  The good news is the van ran great towing the trailer, and the passenger seating was very comfortable.  Vonda finally ran Pastor Jim out of the back seat and took over the nap duty.


As 4:30 pm Susan became the hero when she brought out a TV so we could watch the Redskins beat the Buccaneers in the first play off game.  We arrived in Chattanooga, TN at 5:15 pm (11 hours and 615 miles after we started the day), had dinner and met with our other team members for evening vespers led by Pastor Jim.  Off to bed to prepare for another 600 mile day.


Pictures – Day One


VIM team departs DUMC at 6:15 Saturday, 7 January


Blair has to have BBQ lunch at "Three Little Pigs", Danville, VA


After long drive full team gathers for evening vespers in Chattanooga, TN



Day Two


The drive today was comfortable.  The question of the day is how many Methodists does it take to change the van’s clock from eastern to central time?

a.      1-- 2 minutes

b.     3--5 hours

c.     All totally befuddled

We may give you the answer tomorrow.


We have all read the drywall manual.  We have been through Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.  We looked for catfish for lunch but had to settle for a Sonic experience.  About 100 miles from Bay St. Louis, we began to see many, many roofs covered in blue tarps and thousands of downed trees.  We saw hundreds of FEMA trailers, all brand new, just sitting in a field.  After a long (we got a little lost) tour of the devastation, we arrived at Main Street UMC, off-loaded our supplies (and the Lamars’ bedding which we had to beg back) and traveled on to find the Morrell Foundation I Care Village.  Along the beachfront, the third story of one house was the only thing remaining among all the twisted live oaks.  All else was washed away.  Piles and piles of debris lie along the streets in the community.  Lots of prayers are needed.

We have rooms and cots in a huge tent.  Dining is also in a large tent.  Tomorrow we will receive our assignment.


Blue tarps 100 miles north of Bay St Louis


Thousands of trees down


FEMA trailers in lots


Beach Drive 7 miles long


One of two houses left standing on Beach Drive for quarter mile inland


Main Street Methodist Church Bay St Louis


Church supply area


Other standing house


I-Care Center, home for the week


I-Care room


I-Care room


Dining tent



Pastor Jim’s “VIM” Reflections on the Trees


Standing under an ancient oak in an opening scene from the landmark series Cosmos Carl Sagan says, “We humans look rather different than a tree.  Without a doubt we perceive the world differently than a tree. But down deep, at the molecular heart of life, the tree and we are essentially identical. .  .  . We are both make of star stuff. (p. 38)”  I have a powerful feeling of that “star stuff” in my life.  I have always had a close affinity to trees - you could say that I love trees. In one of my favorite book Earth Prayers  there is a prayer from the Chinook Psalter with the repeated lines May all I say and all I think be in harmony with thee.  God within me, God beyond me, maker of the trees.   This affirmation comes to us over 260 times in the Bible as God works in and through the images of trees.


I was asked to lead vesper services each evening on our recent VIM mission in Mississippi.  The first service came to me in the power of the trees  The many ways that the Bible expresses God presence in and through trees - I find it true for me.  To touch a tree for me is to know God in a unique way. The Bible is framed in trees from Genesis 1:11 to Revelation 22:19 our faith engage trees as a reality of God power and presence. 


As we drove south, deeper into Mississippi, all of us were looking out the van window waiting to see the power of the hurricane.  We each saw in our own way – I see through trees – their breaking off, their uprooting, their direction of bend or brokenness, their kind, their age, their place in the forest and most importantly their recovery.  The Scriptures often remind us - a tree is a symbol of hope and life.  We camped at the ocean’s edge amid a grove of massive live oaks I would guess some well over three hundred years old possibly even five. They were totally limbless - I went to them and touched their pain and blessed them.  I went to them to receive the power of their strength and to know their journey in this storm and storms long past.  I prayed for their wounds and was blessed by their strength.  Few trees stood along  the coast of Bay St. Louis, many uprooted, broken off or washed away.  The trees that stood showed the power of the hurricane they were ripped and torn by wind and debris.  Yet upon the broken limbs of the mighty live oak sprigs grew green like clumps of mistletoe.  Where little or nothing stood manmade the trees held fast in the melee of  this Armageddon.  Hope through a mighty oak that has withstood hundred of similar storms shows forth in the image of God the maker of the trees who gives hope amid the destruction.




Day Three




Notes of Team Leader, Irene Schneider, St Matthews UMC, Bowie




The home of Linda Shaw, her husband Hobart and Captain Fou at 4220 Kelly Road, Pearlington, which is west of Waveland.  Linda works in the medical community; Hobart works for NASA and Captain Fou (Martin Bowman) lives on and oversees the property.


They claimed government support was 5% to 90% religious support;  Army Corp of Engineers under Col Harrington has been very helpful to this community.


The Shaws evacuated while Captain Fou stayed on the property in one of three sailboats tied together during the storm surge.  After winds ranging at 130 miles per hour stopped, it took 14-16 hours for the 45 foot storm surge to begin to recede.  Captain Fou spent 12 hours in the sail boat riding out the storm, not knowing where he was; had the storm carried him out to sea, to another state, was he still in the water or had he been washed ashore?  Two of the three sail boats in the channel broke their moorings and were blown into some large trees on the property, the third stayed at its mooring.  When the winds changed  direction and the water receded the two sail boats returned to the channel.  Captain Fou’s first contact was three days later when a Navy Seal Team came looking for survivors.


Twenty trees, some oaks over one hundred fifty years old, covered the driveway to their home and the water reached to the top of the windows on the second floor.   Then came “Rita”:  more water covered the roads after receding from” Katrina” and made it impossible to travel.  To get to the house you had to park at Highway 90 and hike in, about 5 miles.  Muck and mud, swamp reeds and debris were found in the drywall between it and the insulation 6 inches below the ceiling on the second floor.,


Fifty people died in Pearlington, population 1400, 8-10 drowned in a church unable to evacuate.  Some who lived in the area did not own vehicles, and judging by the debris the vehicles they had could not make the trip. A huge junk yard of vehicles and broken trailers still line the shoulders of Route 90.  Pearlington is unincorporated, has no mayor,  sheriff or police for warnings or arranging evacuations.  They were without electrical power for 100 days.  The Corp of Engineers, FEMA and the Navy Seals were the only support for this community until church support became available.  Food and water were scarce.  The Red Cross is still feeding the people there.


Our pictures will show the horrendous debris there and we were told it only represents 5% of what was there.  This family just received 2 “FEMA” trailers one month ago.  You had to have water, sewerage and electric before you could get a FEMA trailer.  Captain Fou dug a well for water; they used a generator for power and were able to still use their existing septic system.  The Shaws were collectors of antiques and guns.  They lost 99% of all their personal items and just about lost their house and boats.  There were thousands of 45 and LP original label records scattered all over the property.  .


Our mission at this property is to remove all soaked insulation and sheetrock from the first and second floors.  All debris, dry wall and insulation on the second floor had to be shoveled into a wheel barrow and dumped into a pile on the ground as all steps to the second floor were gone.  We had to use a ladder to enter the second story.  The debris pile grew to over 15 feet high.  We then had to haul this out to the road for eventual pick up. Only the second story front walls remain on the house.   A few hours into the project we realized the ceiling and sub-flooring on the second floor, which was made of particle board, needed to be removed.  Particle board turns to gummy glue when it gets wet.  Trash and personal items peppered the property.  It was truly hard to imagine this place prior to the storm and how beautiful it must have been.



The Storm’s 35 Foot Wall of Water


Shaw House


Sail Boats Back at Mooring


View from House


Red Cross Providing Lunch





Margie Peters (68 and disabled) and her four grandchildren, Pearlington, Mississippi.


The family evacuated during the storm.  Upon their return, they had to live on the property in order to receive the help they needed to repair their home.  Margie’s husband is  in the hospital in Slidell and only three of the four grandchildren returned with her.


This house (double wide trailer), excluding the structure was completely destroyed by the water surge. 

She shared pictures of the water damage to all furniture, appliances and personal items.  Water  had raised through the walls and inside the actual electrical wiring casings, so all wires and boxes, drywall sub-flooring, insulation and outside siding of this trailer needed to be replaced.  She could rebuild her trailer  but could not replace it with a new one because of new laws passed.  It was a very nice piece of property and a beautiful five bedroom home.


Teams had been to this location and tried their best to get her back in her home.  Unfortunately the other teams did not have the necessary skills to get the electrical and drywall done properly.  When we arrived  at

this site, it was determined all wiring had to be re-done.  Some of the partially installed drywall had to be removed to correct the electrical hook ups and correct how the dry wall was hung.  THIS LADY HAD ORIGINALLY PAID SOMEONE TO DO THIS WORK WITH HER INSURANCE MONEY, THEN HAD TO COME TO THE CHURCH FOR HELP FROM VIM TEAMS.


This family was given one small FEMA Trailer to house four people. There is barely enough room to walk into the trailer and into the tiny bathroom.  Some pop-up tents have more room than this trailer.


It was over 60 days before this area started to receive help.  They lived on sippy packets of water and “MRE” meals provided by the Red Cross.  Every piece of furniture, appliance and 90% of heir personal items were lost.



Inside Peters Double Wide


The Peters: Margie, Jessica , Rickey, & Mandy


Peters Double Wide





MAIN STREET UMC was heavily damaged by the storm surge.  The entire Day Care Center, the pastor’s  and secretary’s office were flooded and the steeple was blown down.  The steeple of this historic church lies out front;

 it must be hauled off to be restored.  Other teams removed the debris and began the re-construction.  Our task is to hang dry wall, tape, mud and sanding for the next team to finish.    They are working on three rooms.


Part of this team is also manning the neighborhood supply tent that distributes needed items to the community.  They come in needing blankets, towels, bleach, detergent and a smile and someone to listen.  This team will also organize the church’s storage room.


Main Street UMC



Day Four


January 10th, 2006

Peters House

Team:  Jim Stutler, Pete Eagen, Chuck McClurg,  Dave Toms

Former folks attempted to do the electrical & dry wall, leaving both jobs incomplete and in a mess. It was  two months before they received help. Margie has had a FEMA trailer for about 30 days.  Once FEMA arrives,  the Red Cross volunteers leave, with no assistance with food or water or  any debris removal.

Margie and the kids left the area with  no gas to get anywhere.  Shelters were full so they slept in the car on the road.  A man stopped and gave them a tent.  She is a sixty seven year old woman with four children who showed such strength.  Her daughter met a biker who got them gas to get them out of the area after the storm. They watched the trailer come apart next door to them. All they had to eat for three days was water melon.

They stayed in Alabama.  When she arrived back after two months away,  she found 18 inches of water had gotten inside and, with no attention,  the house  was full of mold.  She wanted to put up a new trailer, but couldn’t.  If she left the property with no structure, the county would have taken the property. Developers are trying to buy the land and the county will not let them build new houses.  People have left their property only to come back and find they don’t own it any longer.

She has insurance with some repair coverage. She has tried to find the cheapest folks to do the job and as a result, all the work that is done, has to be re-done. She houses two Mexican guys that do roofing and have helped her with some work.

We have been on the job for two days and have re-wired two thirds of her house, she now has lights and a washing machine. During the next two days we will finish the electrical and some of the dry wall work.

Former VIM teams used youth that were not trained on dry wall or electrical skills. Our team noticed holes cut for receptacles that were not in the same place they should be.

She feeds the crew heater meals.  You pour water over a chemical pad, which heats by a chemical reaction and steams the meal. MRE, Military meals ready to eat.

Hard Working Electrical Crew

Unfinished Electrical Work


Work at Main Street Church

Team: Debra Marshall, Elinor Smith, Jo Anna Clark

 People come in and talk a lot.  A lady today said she and her daughter both lost their homes in New Orleans. She  had an indoor flea market business in Bay St Louis which was mostly lost but they expect the business to be reopened. She is living in town.

A gentleman comes in and says he still cannot believe this has happened. Crystal River Methodist Church has organized to bring a youth group to work. The supply tent will close down in two weeks.

 A little girl, great manners, wanted crayons, no stuffed animal. She said thank you and asked where she could put her trash. We were tickled with a lady who came in wanting matched sheets. We were able to get our towels out and some sheets.

Main Street UMC Supply Tent

The Shaw House

Team: Irene & Bill Schneider, Pat Eagen, Martha and Jessica Philips-Patrick, Rusty & Susan Lamar, Blair Smith, Vonda & Roger Vales

 We have been on the job for two days and have mucked out all the first floor and made progress on the second.  It is about a city block from the house to where we were dumping the remains of the house.  The big thing was the owner, Linda Shaw, came by today.  She clarified some of the issues we were concerned about -- what should be torn down and what should be left.  She carted out trash with the group and made a point of expressing her gratitude to each member.  She was able to locate several personal items that meant a lot to her and she saved them, especially a t-shirt from a rock concert that she had attended some years before.  Bill’s personal observation was that he saw her when she came and when we left and she seemed like a different person after seeing what the team had accomplished.    Everyone was glad that we got to meet Linda.  She was so appreciative of what we had done.  Roger's  observation was once she saw a large crew making great progress she snapped out of months of depression.  She could now see the future.  It was a great event to witness and gave great meaning to the trip .

The 2nd floor debris pile


Moving the debris by wheelbarrow


The 15 foot pile is gone


New pile at the road


Home Owner Linda Shaw



Day Five


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bay St Louis Mississippi


Our teams have been working for three days at the Main Street UMC and  in Pearlington, Mississippi, south of Bay St Louis, an area that was directly hit by the storm surge that first came ashore.  One of the things that struck us the most is the amount of tree destruction and the pain condition of the trees left. Most of them will die due to exposure to the salt water. There were/are trees here that are over 150 years old.


A 12 mile radius was directly hit by the 35 foot storm surge. It is so hard to imagine this area will ever recover.


Our team has bonded well, made new friends and shared lots of stories.   We are on track to accomplish our goals at all three sites.


We worked until 1:00 pm on Wednesday, cleaned up and drove to New Orleans to see the town and have dinner.  The 60 mile drive from Bay St Louis to New Orleans on Hwy 10 gave us a new appreciation of the vast damage.  As we passed Pearlington, MS, Slidell, LA, Lake Pontchartrain, the outskirts of New Orleans and the 9th Ward,  the damage was overwhelming with few if any people on the streets.  Everything South of Hwy 10 has been destroyed or damaged.


As we made our way into the high part of the city, we could see that the city was starting to come back.  A horse and carriage passed in front of us as we approached the French Quarter.  We parked at the market just outside the French Quarter and walked into the French Quarter which was all cleaned up.  A lot of the shops were open, and there were a few shoppers.  An old street car came rolling by. 


We shopped and talked with some shopkeepers.  They told the story of how their business was ok but their home was destroyed.  We made our way to Bourbon Street where there was some life but not like before the storm.  Most of the folks in town were tourists or workers.  As it became later, more and more workers were finding their way to their hotels in the French Quarter. 


We got back in the van for our trip to Metairie to the Acme Oyster House for a real New Orleans dinner.  Interstate 10 was a major rush hour traffic jam. That was good and bad news.  It showed the city was coming back but the workers are living out of town and have to drive into and out of town rather than use the city's transit system to get to their homes.  Lots of "help wanted" signs are up.  One of Blair's New Orleans cousins who lost her home met us for dinner.  The sit-down dinner was a real treat and the food very good. 


The drive back was very dark as a lot of the city and the outlying towns are unoccupied and without electricity.


New Orleans


New Orleans Horse and Carriage


New Orleans Streetcars are Running


VIM Team Visits New Orleans


Bourbon Street Open for Business.....Not Much of It



Day Six


January 12, 2006


Waveland, Pearlington and Bay Saint Louis Mississippi


Broken Trees, Broken Houses, Broken Dreams, Broken Lives


The devastation in this area is beyond comprehension.  We are here experiencing it and still cannot comprehend all of what we are experiencing.  In our spiritual teachings we are taught that possessions can always be replaced and shouldn’t carry the importance in our lives that we seemingly place on them, but we fail to realize what possessions symbolize when a disaster of this magnitude hits.


A storm can break down trees and blow away a house, but it also breaks down dreams and blows away people's lives. Possessions have become identifiers of the lives of people. It encompasses their dignity, their style of life, (living in a home instead of in their car).  Although Mississippi is considered the poorest state in the United States, it was never considered one without faith. The pain people seem to feel is the loss, the loss of all. In some cases, loved ones, others accomplishments, others memories but most, the loss of just everyday life as it was.


As you walk and see a toy truck in the mud, or a light fixture or a sign that will never again identify a location because the location is gone, it makes one sad. Sad because all of these THINGS meant something to these people, were created by people, represented a town were people lived and worked and played or worshiped. The emptiness this creates can only be partially filled by the love and care of others. These people need to see and feel results--results that represent some of their dreams re-built. Something they want and need returned. Their everyday life!


Everyone we have talked to says these are just things and they don’t matter, what matters is I want my home back, I want my town back, I want my life back!


The Kansas East District of the Western Conference was the first to arrive to this area and is still operating the recovery for UMCOR. FEMA trailers started arriving in October, and they are still waiting for more. They have assisted over 300 families begin their recovery process, have 40 on the un-complete list and 140 actively waiting team support. Pearlington, where two of our teams are working, was behind the entire area in receiving support. It took members of the community setting up a site where people could come and ask for help. They then contacted the church organizations in the area for help, who then got FEMA involved. No one from their county or state came to assist them.



In some cases their insurance only covers roof replacement unless they were in the flood plain and could get flood insurance. Most of these folks could not afford flood insurance and had no idea how to apply to FEMA or VIM teams for help.


Contractors are taking advantage of these folks charging $800.00 per room for flood clean up. Others are stating that they can do work,  which doesn’t get done correctly,  and then they leave the area. There is no one to call back to fix what wasn’t done properly in the beginning.


But, there is good sign of work being done right and a town coming back. I walked the small town of Bay St Louis and experienced trucks moving on every street hauling debris, carpenters re-framing houses, residents working hard to clear their property and some businesses re-opening for part of the week. It was good to see some grass re-growing and trees getting leaves back. Some bushes even displayed flowers.


Waveland and Pearlington are the areas in most need. They are 90 days behind most of the progress. There is still rumor that builders and casino owners are trying to purchase land, cheap, for condos and beachfront casinos.


The “I Care Village“, run by the Morrell Foundation has spent $800,000.00 on the facility set up to house volunteers.  I was shocked to hear many stay there that have made reservations through third -party organizations, paying as much as $30.00 per day per person, and the Foundation doesn’t see a cent of the funds. When you arrive, they ask you to register but never ask you for money. There is a mail slot for you to make a donation if you can. Their suggest amount is $10.00 per person per day. The facility has its problems, but every day there are folks working to make improvements. It is amazing what they have set up under the conditions here.


On Thursday evening the team viewed a DVD prepared by a local TV station in Waveland. I was given a copy and will copy for all team members. This documentary shows the area before and after “Katrina” and tells the story of the people. We were all speechless at the end!


Someone's Life Long Belongings


Remains of Large Record Collection


A Car But No Home


A Home Washed Away


"I" Care Center a Gift of the Morrell Foundation


Day Seven


We began the day with the teams at the three locations where they started on Monday, each with a plan to finish all assigned goals.


By 12 noon the team from the Shaw house and from the Church joined the team at the Peters house. Seventeen worked till 5:30 and completed the goal (all electric wiring including the stove, washer and dryer was operational) plus were able to install two rooms of drywall and spackle most of the remaining drywall.


The work we accomplished will allow Mrs. Peters to move out of the trailer and back into her house. There is still much to be done there, but she can live in the house.


Pastor Stutler held a Communion Service upon our return to the I-Care Center, after which we discussed what more we could do for the two families and the church.  We collected $900.00 from the team to purchase appliances for the two houses, and we still have funds to give to the Church or pay directly to UMCOR.  Additionally, we purchased more towels, bleach and detergent for the church supply tent.


The mission of this VIM trip was completed.  We touched the lives of two families and helped them on their way to rebuilding.  However, to rebuild the Golf Coast, it is going to take the continuing commitment of all our churches sending VIM Teams for years.


Bill, Rusty & Blair Hang Dry Wall


Grand Peters Granddaughters Spackle


Pastor Jim Stutler Carries Dry Wall


Blair & Roger Cut Dry Wall


Vonda Spackles the Corner


The Smiles Are Payment for this VIM Trip


Day Eight


Blair's Reflections


Seeing God’s divine hand in the strangest of places


For most of the work week our Davidsonville V.I.M. team was split in two.  Rev. Jim, Roger and Vonda worked at restoring the double-wide home of kindly “Margie Peters”.   At that location there were plenty of smiles, and one of the granddaughters she was raising made neck signs reading “Didn’t do it” or “Yes, Dear”.  Susan, Rusty and myself, however, spent all but the afternoon of the last day at the Shaw residence under decidedly different circumstances.  Joining us there for the week were Bill Schneider from St. Matthews in Bowie and the mother-daughter duo from Rockville, Marti and Jessica Phillips-Patrick.


Our first inkling that we were in for a unique and challenging experience was upon arrival.  The home of Hobart and Linda Shaw, who were not then in residence, was on a swampy peninsula and was presided over by a man calling himself Captain Fou (or Fou fou).  It wasn’t until several days later that we learned that his actual name was Martin Luther Bowman III.  As we had the long DUMC van and its attached trailer, I was apprehensive of driving it through mud and was fearful of finding our team unable to turn around.  The Captain assured me that the mud had a  solid bottom and that I could turn around “at the end of the world”.


We soon learned that the Captain and the Shaws were probably survivalists.  Numerous weapons were in evidence as were thousands of rounds of ammunition in various calibers.  The area was filled with stores and supplies.  The Captain then began a  continuous right-wing conspiracy lecture that lasted 4 ½ days, interrupted only by our daily departures or when some of us were on the 2nd floor. Those there were clearing the interior walls down right to the studs.  This meant that anyone on the ground level , whose job it was to clear away the debris thus created, was fully exposed to the Captain’s ramblings.


At the end of the first day several of us approached Irene Schneider, our group leader, with justifiable concerns.  Was this truly part of God’s plan or could our energies be best used elsewhere?  Some of our 17 member V.I.M. team refused to work there, and the rest did so with reservations.  Our core group of 6 stuck it out knowing that God works in mysterious ways. We realized that these folks, too, were his people and were in need of help.


After two days we figured out that the Captain’s technique was to bombard us with questions, the answers to which only he generally knew.  The subject matter varied little, but generally had to do with conspiracy, rights to privacy and the 2nd Amendment.  He would also regale us with stories about the 5 hurricanes that he had ridden out.  He reminded all of us of the Energizer Bunny; he just never stopped going.  We joked that someone needed to be the designated listener so that the rest could get work done.  Early on Roger had job, but he fled after two days.  Marti and Sue generally bore the burden.  I would spell them periodically, attempting to turn the tables by asking him historical questions to which only I knew the answers.


By mid-week Linda and Hobart Shaw were on hand with the Captain.  At first their demeanor exhibited suspicions, but they soon saw that we had no alternative agenda and we were there just to help. All 3 of them pitched in to assist.  By week’s end Linda and Hobart were generally smiling and our group felt good that we’d been able to lift their spirits.  We departed at noon Friday to assist at the other job site, having accomplished our work goals, leaving behind our best wishes and God’s blessings.  I’d like to thank the other members of the team for their mutual support, humor and hard work that made for a successful project under difficult circumstances.




Fire Arms In Use


Linda's First Smile


Capt Foo's Treasure Pile


Capt Foo Armed


A Smile Makes It's  All Worth While


New Orleans, LA 2007 - by Blair Smith & Tim McArdle

Reflections by Blair Smith 01.23.07:  Thanks to all of the DUMC family for helping to make the trip to New Orleans (N.O.) a success. There were 23 of us in all, a 24th, a cousin of Joann’s, having dropped out due to illness.

Blair, Joann, and , Mo headed south on Thursday, Jan. 4th, and arrived in N.O. on the 5th. We checked out a roofing job and then dropped by the Eastbank Storm Station (EBSS). Mo did what he could to help out with roofing while Blair and Joann then went on to visit friends in Lafayette.

On Saturday the 6th most of the team departed for N.O. from Davidsonville in the “new” DUMC mini-bus (named “Goldie” by Jo and named both the "Champagne Short Bus" and "I'm not riding back in that thing" by Tim) and the Vales’s van, relying heavily on “Natalie”, Frank’s GPS system for navigation.  They arrived in N.O. the evening of Sunday the 7th at Munholland UMC in Metairie.  Later, 3 others arrived by air.  That evening the folks at the church gave us a welcoming dinner.  Also there were 15 VIM participants from 7 churches in PG County.  The 38 of us had separate quarters in the church, but shared the 6 showers.

With the exception of the roofing team and those who arrived by air later on Monday, the rest of us attended an orientation at the EBSS. Then it was off to the job sites.  Our largest team was charged with mucking and gutting. They finished a house begun by an earlier team, and then proceeded to strip 3 other houses down to the studs! (Ask Frank or Tim about roaches, rats or snakes.)

Viola, owner of the house where the roofers worked, was so appreciative of their efforts that she twice brought them lunches of fried chicken, red beans and rice and cornbread. She owned a little ramshackle restaurant “in the hood” as she called it.

The teenage sons of Shelia, the owner of the house where our drywallers labored, had previously mucked and gutted their home. Jim and Tom affected many structural repairs while the rest of that team prepped, cut, installed and mudded drywall.

**** Update on Shelia and her family 02/27/07 from Vonda Vales: "Two crews have been there since we left in January. They finished the spackling, and removed the kitchen cabinets and dry walled behind them and put up a new kitchen ceiling. The kitchen sub floor needs to be finished and she is waiting for appliances. A new water heater was installed and the gas leak fixed. She is thrilled because the crew last week painted the entire house in a Sherman Williams "Blonde" and it looks beautiful and brings life back into the house! She thinks she will be able to move back in in about a month. After we were there, it was 3 weeks before the next crew came so it has been slow but sure progress. Shelia asked me to express her gratitude and love for all the help given her. She and her sons are so happy to see her house come alive again and can't wait to move from the trailer into their home!"

The 4th DUMC team was absolutely crucial to all of our efforts. They prepared and cleaned up our meals, picked up and dropped off folks at job sites and the airport, and made runs for supplies and paperwork at the EBSS and other locations. They knew the city well by the end of the week. They also burned up an entire tank of fuel, about 400 miles of city driving! Often up at 5am, they usually didn’t get to relax until late in the evening.

Mo left us Thursday evening, Erik Friday afternoon, Gerry and Scott Saturday morning, and Tim, Georgia, Amie and Cathie Sunday morning.  Roger and Vonda went on to Texas. The rest of the team headed for home in the mini-bus and Blair & Joann’s SUV at 5:45 am Sunday morning, with an overnight in Greenville, SC. “Goldie” had a flat which was repaired 1st thing Monday morning, and we arrived safely at DUMC about 6:00 pm. Tired, but with a sense of satisfaction for helping to do God’s work, the team truly lived up to its directive and motto from Nehemiah 2:18, “Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” 

Reflections on an unusual encounter by Tim McArdle 01.23.07

The 2007 New Orleans VIM mucking/gutting team was greeted with an unusual surprise visitor close to lunchtime on Wednesday, January 10 while working on the Canal Blvd house.  While vigorously at work Rusty shouted from out side of our house for someone who spoke Spanish as our visitor was speaking Spanish to him.  Being fluent in that language I volunteered promptly to help out.  I was greeted warmly by a gentleman and we proceeded to carry on a conversation during which I noticed a number of curious flaws in his Spanish language skills.  I became a little cautious at this point as I was certain many scams were taking place in our work zones.  I asked a fairly difficult question and it was at this time the gentleman began to speak English and introduce himself as a Reverend from the 9th Ward who noticed our church bus and wished to stop by and pay his respects and speak a bit about what has transpired in his home city.  While having an auspicious beginning to say the least, Reverend Charles Garrison (inset #1) was very well spoken and heartfelt in his words about his home.  We all stopped our work to listen to his words as he recited a couple of poems to us; one of which he autographed and presented to us (see inset #2) dedicated to DUMC.  He said a prayer for our team, our church, and a wish that more of us come to the aid of his city.  His second poem which we do not have a copy of was tremendously poignant as well and spoke about a New Orleans of his childhood.  One that wasn’t driven by the debauchery that it is today but one that was about family, music, and food.  I’ve written to the Reverend to try to get a copy of this poem and if we get one I will submit it here and in a future Lamplighter should we receive it.  We still don’t know why he began his encounter with us in Spanish – that will perhaps remain one of the trip’s many amazing mysteries!!!


D'Alberville, MS 2008 - Journal by Nancy Paczosa

January 4  flew to Baltimore and stayed in Annapolis with Rog and Vonda.  Jeff, Nicky, and the boys joined us for dinner.  

January 5 and 6  traveled via bus, car, or van.  Began at the Davidsonville Methodist Church Men’s Club Breakfast. We were 23 men and women ranging in age from 32 to 80.   We drove in Vales’s van and Nathan age 32 joined us.   Nathan is on his second volunteer mission.  He served 8 years in the Marines and is now a financial planner.  We traveled in a caravan to Henderson, N.C. for lunch then on to “La Quinta Inn” in Anderson, S.C. where we had dinner and slept.  The second travel day was uneventful except for the stop at Wintzel’s Oyster House in Saraland, Ala, where we ate fabulous fried green tomatoes with crawfish and Creole sauce    Arrived around 7:00 in D’Iberville just outside of Biloxi Miss.   Group leader Blair wrote, ”we stayed at a dormitory/dining facility that had been built by the Indiana Annual Conference of the UMC, and was on the grounds of Heritage UMC.   Also there was a large warehouse with equipment and supplies.  Heritage’s Sheila was a nearly fulltime volunteer who coordinated the job sites.  We shared space with a 7-member team from Loda, IL. and with 19 folks from P.G. County.  Cooking responsibilities were also shared, and Pastor Jim set up a cleaning schedule.”    “The roofing crew had Mo, Blair, Scott (Blair’s bro), Matt and Georgia (Joann’s cousin), Karen (a friend of Georgia) and Amie.  They totally stripped and reroofed a house with multiple roof pitches in 5 days.”      Just down the street the drywall crew dealt with a difficult house that had cathedral ceilings and crooked walls.  That crew had Roger, Nancy and Bruce, Vonda, Cathie, Sue, and Nathan (Blair’s friend).   Rog and Bruce worked together with the rest in a crew that called itself ’the Sheetrockin’ Mommas and Their Boy”.  Amie, Georgia and Karen also helped at that job site when not busy elsewhere.”      “ Pastor Jim, Rusty, Adam and Dave comprised the Plumbing and Electrical crew.  They totally re-plumbed one house, and insulated the floor, installed a 240 line and a small heatpump in another.  Georgia also helped there one day.”      “Joann, Barbara, Betty and Beth made up the Swing Crew.  They cooked, cleaned, ran errands, picked up and dropped off folks at the airport and helped out where needed.”

January 7  awakened at 6:00.   Vonda looked at watch, which read 7:00 Annapolis time. Oops.  Had cereal, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread or Betty’s coffee cake, juice, coffee and banana.      Made lunch: cold meat sandwiches, chips, half apples, cookies and brownies.      Left for the 15-minute trip to the job site at 7:19   Roofing crew was already on site at the first house.  We drove three down to our house 317 Haise, Biloxi, Miss.  Weather was sunshine and 60s.      House had new siding and roof and was gutted and insulated by earlier teams.  We were to put up ceilings and sheetrock six rooms.  Sheetrock was 12 feet by 4 feet and was very heavy.   We took our time getting screw guns and drills charged and learning techniques.  We did manage.      Don Balius arrived to thank us.  He was 80 years old.  His wife had died from lung cancer.  He had worked for his Daddy’s Ironwork Company. He had 4 sons and 1 daughter (she lived by the church where we were staying.)   The first house our team was roofing was his and this was his son’s. He told us that they did not leave when Katrina hit because when Camille hit just 2 years before they only got 2 feet of water in the street.  He said that the water in their house started about 6:00 AM    Water came up 8 feet.  They made it to the attic via a hole in the kitchen ceiling.  His son was on top of the refrigerator and the water pushed it over.  Eventually he also was pulled through the hole in the ceiling.  Part of the roof was blown off and they saw their week old uninsured truck bobbing in the water.  All around them was water and they were afraid they would drown.  Water receded quickly and was gone in 12 hours leaving mud and sand.      We had no washroom so we traveled back to the church for a picnic lunch outside the facility.  By late afternoon a port a pot  was delivered.  We discovered square nails and very old wainscoting in the house.  We were told it was a shotgun house and was more than 100 years old.  One could stand at the front door and shoot a bullet through the house.  It did have a newer addition, which accounted for the 12-foot pitch ceilings in 2 of the rooms.      Back at the church 6:30 dinner was broccoli chicken bake, salad and cake with cherry pie filling.   

January 8  breakfast at 6:30 was scrambled eggs and sausage patties.  On the road by 7:30.  Don came by and we talked again.  He was able to go to his daughter’s house after Katrina because her area by the church did not flood.  The water rose from the bay and from the gulf that day.  He went to live in a FEMA trailer.  He was very sick and lost 30 pounds.  His Doctor told him it was from the formaldehyde in the trailer.    His daughter made phone calls and was able to get him a FEMA home that he has parked next to his house.  They will take that away eventually.  He sleeps on the couch by the front door because a lady he knew was asleep in her FEMA trailer when a fire started in the kitchen.  There is only the front door so she died trapped in the bedroom.      Since everything was wet and ruined by floodwaters in his house, he has been there for two and one half years.  He has been on a list for volunteer help and finally work has begun.      Don mentioned Jefferson Davis’s home on the gulf, which is close by where we were working.  On the way home we drove by it and noted the sign asking for donations to help restore it.       We had to learn how to use the dremel saw and the screw gun that cost $300.  The 12-foot ceilings and drop ceilings were left while we honed our skills on the walls. Gutting team had left many square nails that had to be pulled for sheetrock to lay flat.  We also pulled out some paneling The sheetrock had some moldy corners and was misshapen because it was leaning against a big new refrigerator.  Also in the house was a boxed range and a 45inch Mitsubishi TV Toward end of the second day we had removed most of the materials stacked against the frig and we smelled something rotten.  Cathie opened it and we had to clear the house because the smell was so terrible.    Betty came by and put on a mask and opened it again.  It looked like meat left in the frig.  We told Don’s son and he told a story about taking a young volunteer who had never been fishing to the gulf.  They left the shrimp bait in the frig and the electricity went off.  Hence the problem.   Eventually they took it out and found the hole in the compressor was the real problem.            As we worked Rog and Vonda and others told stories about Waveland where the eye of the hurricane hit.  .  About one month after the storm hit they arrived and conditions were much different then.   Mississippi is being rebuilt by volunteers one house at a time.  Rog said it would take ten to twenty years to complete.  Louisiana is not making it easy for churches or volunteers.  They have rules and red tape and 4.5 billion dollars of government money sitting while they slowly make decisions.  

January 9  was picture day by the large sign outside of the church.  We all wore the lime green shirts the church had given us.  Breakfast was French toast and cereal and fruit       We are pros now.  Bruce and Rog nearly finished the kitchen and Sue, Cathy, Vonda, Nathan and I were able to sheetrock the 12 foot sloping ceiling.  They had rented a scaffold for $30 for a week and we put it together and climbed up.   Two retired gentlemen delivered more supplies.   We   also started taping as we went along.      Wal-Mart opened in a huge tent outside of Waveland since everything for 35 miles in was destroyed by the 35-foot tall wave of water.  Wal-Mart brought in water and clean-up supplies and food and didn’t over charge.  Our group drove to the Biloxi Wal-Mart   on the way home to show our support.  Called Jen and found out temperature in Chicago was 70.  We had 78 high.  Dinner was spaghetti, French bread, salad, and Mississippi mud dessert      Rusty and Georgia talked about sliding under a woman’s house (22inch space) with a hazmet uniform and mask and insulating the underneath.  Georgia is a 50-year-old grandmother and she took vacation time to make this trip.   Rusty owns a custom window and door company with his wife Sue.  They left their big dog in the kennel to volunteer.  They have been on four missions.  

January 10  breakfast was biscuits and gravy and peppers and potatoes.  To the work site by 7:30.  Roofers finished the roof and Rusty joined us.  We quit work at 11:00 and cleaned up.  We returned to church for leftovers and cleaned up for trip to Waveland and New Orleans.      Only 35 houses remained for over 6000 people after Katrina.  After water receded everything was rubble.  Rog and Vonda could not believe how much had been cleaned up.  Just hard to believe this happened in America.  A large tent was erected just after the storm on a slab of cement.  Black plaster was hung to divide it into rooms for sleeping.  People brought their own sleeping bags and slept on the cement.  They had two large pots for cooking.  One held the sauce and the other held the spaghetti.  When that ran out the one barbeque place in town had opened in a tent.  That was open daily until they ran out of food.  Some days both ran out of food so people ate cheese and crackers and snacks after working hard all day.   There were still many FEMA trailers and contractor trailers.  A few scraggly trees were there but even trees were mostly destroyed.  We had seen bulldozers on the coast of Biloxi cleaning up the sand, but we didn’t see that here,      Traveled on to New Orleans.  Saw houses on the way to the French Quarter that still had the TWW written on.  This meant toxic wastewater.   People were in them as lights were on.  Not much changed in some neighborhoods since the storm.   We were glad to get to the French Quarter and enjoy some free time shopping in the fun shops.  Our group stopped and listened to a live band and then met the rest of the group at Acme Oyster House.  Found where we parked but had to have chicory coffee and Beignets (dough deep fried and lots of powdered sugar.)   We returned to our Heritage Church.  The building behind it where we stayed that the Indiana volunteers built had 2 washroom areas. One was for men and the other for women.  Each had 4 showers, 4 toilets and 3 sinks.  There was space on one side to hang towels.  Next to the women’s area there was a large stocked kitchen.  There were lots of pans and utensils and packaged food.  The swing team went to the grocery store the first day and bought the supplies for the week.  If they forgot an ingredient they used the stock.  What was left after the week was cleaned out or donated. Next to the kitchen was a small room with a stacked washer and dryer and more supplies. Then came the rooms for sleeping.  Each room had 4 bunk beds except for the corner rooms where there were 6.  We brought our own sheets, pillows and blankets.  Rog and Bruce and Rusty and Adam shared a room.  Adam was 80 years old and climbed up the top bunk nightly.  He used to own a marina in New York City and he knew how to do everything. I shared a room with Vonda, Beth, Georgia, Karen and Amie the pastor’s daughter.  Amie’s mom Cathie was the pastor’s wife and also a nurse.  Thankfully the only need for her skills was when Blair hit his thumb with a 20-pound roofing hammer.  Cathie and Betty were in the room next door.  Betty is 80 and could outwork any of us.  She worked in an administrative office of a school before retiring.  She is a hard working volunteer on the Saturdays their Maryland church has their barbeque sales.  This earns the church enough for two mission trips per year.  

January 11  we worked our final day.  We had to take down and return the scaffold and pack up the trailer behind the bus that held all the tools and equipment and would also carry bedding and luggage back to Maryland the next day.                                                                                                                                                      

 January 12  we were packed and on the road home by 7:30.  When we stopped again at the same restaurant the same waiter from the previous week decided to share his sister’s story.  She was 6 months pregnant and lived in a first floor apartment in Biloxi just off highway 10 when Katrina hit. She was wading through knee deep water and a stranger stopped and took her across the bay to high ground.  He paid for a hotel for her and came back the next day with his wife and gave her his second car to drive to her family in Illinois.  

January 13  was an uneventful drive until we met a lady in a washroom in Virginia.  She was just returning from her 83-year-old mother’s apartment in Biloxi.  On the day Katrina hit the mother left her beachfront home and went to higher ground.  When she returned only a tree on the property remained.  She was given $114000 for her house, but the code now says she must build it much higher and her old knees cannot go up all those stairs.  So her daughter was visiting her mom and helping her sell the property so she can build in D’Iberville.  The daughter had attended the elementary school that is at the end of the block where Don Balius’s house is.  Small world.  Next door to the son’s house where we worked was the Fred Haise home.  The plaque on the door told us he was an astronaut who was born and raised in that home.  He no longer owns the home but it is of historical significance and needs to be redone like the house we worked on.

January 14  we flew back to Chicago.  We have many stories to tell since we have seen first hand the destruction of Katrina and the slow rebuilding process.  We met many wonderful people willing to give of their time and energy.  We have learned   how to put up sheetrock and rehab shotgun homes.  We are thankful to Rog and Vonda for allowing us the opportunity to go with the Volunteers In Mission.      Nancy Paczosa


New Orleans, LA 2009

With the pack up of the church van (not the short bus) we a discovery was made that the brake lines were leaking.  Parts could not be obtained in time so the backup plan was the trailer and the short bus (as some call “Goldie” and I coined “I’m never riding in that thing again” after the 2007 trip).  We left Davidsonville on a very cold January 10th morning relatively on time and began the long haul to Atlanta.  Rusty drove the short bus for the first shift and we had two escort vehicles along in Pastor Jim and Roger’s mini-SuVs.  All 3 vehicles had GPS assistance however with the short bus and shift drivers, some of which not familiar with using GPS had a few minor twists and turns along the trip.  There was also a section where we came about a quarter mile away from running out of fuel.  Mild sedatives kept me reasonably calm.   With Blair running the third shift of driving we pulled into the outskirts of Atlanta around 6pm, checked into the La Quinta and headed to the only reasonable restaurant nearby; the ever reliable and campy Cracker Barrel.  Accommodations were particularly nice at the La Quinta and after a healthy breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy (or bran and yogurt depending on your preferences), the team headed back out the road on the way to the traditional Wintzells Oyster House in Alabama for lunch.  More to come…

Day 2 January 11, 2009

Atlanta to Metairie.  Stan took the first drive shift from the La Quinta and we set out to Louisiana without much of a hitch.  Adam took over after a 3 hour shift from Stan right around the time we crossed into Alabama.  The Alabama/Mississippi leg of the trip is through a lot of swamp land and nothingness so gas awareness is a must.  When I awoke from a sedative-induced haze the bus was on an off ramp out in the middle of Alabama running on fumes and Adam announcing ‘we need gas’.  Another mile down the road the next announcement was ‘we are OUT of gas’.  And so we were – a call to one of the escort vehicles and about 30 minutes later and we had a gas can and it turned out we were only about a ¼ mile away from Ossawa AL and the only gas station anywhere in the area.  We filled up and stowed the gas can aboard the bus so we could inhale the gas fumes for the rest of the trip.  Rusty took over driving the last leg and about 5 miles from the Mississippi border a strange vibration began to occur (one much larger than the natural ‘hum and din’ of the short bus).  Debate within the bus crew began over whether that was the road or something was awry.  We crossed a bridge overpass and it seemed to appear the hum was the road – but upon crossing the road-bridge joice a loud bang took place under the bus accompanied by some violent swerving and a collective “pull over” as we were traveling a good 75 MPH at the time.  Rusty did a pretty good job of bringing her down and once on the roadside and off the bus it was discovered the inside wheel of the 2 on the back right rear had blown completely out and was basically threadbare.  With tractor trailers whizzing by at 100MPH and the state line rest area about a quarter mile further up we limped the bus into the parking log and assessed what our next move would be.  Adam valiantly took the lead charge and found a spare, a jack, and a tire wrench.  Unfortunately it would seem the tires on the bus hadn’t been changed in some 10-15 years and the bolts were essentially rusted on.  With some good engineering Adam managed to put the jack under one side if the tire wrench and him standing on the other end to jar all 9 nuts loose.  With a collective effort from all of us we managed to get all 9 nuts off and the first tire off.  The second tire (the blown one) was also rusted to the rotor and would not budge.  We were limited on tools out of the bus itself however there were lots of tools in trailer – problem was they were at the FRONT of the fully loaded trailer hidden by a considerable amount of luggage.  After a little luggage-mining we did come across some crowbars and small hammers.  Banging and prying on the tire Adam and I managed to pop it loose but it was still difficult to pull off the bolts.  Using my feet propped under the tire we managed to leverage the second tire off.  After a couple failed attempts to put the new tire on and the discovery of the lubricating effect of Off Deep Woods spray found on the bus we managed to get both tires back on and with some trepidation continued on.  We were only slightly behind schedule arriving in Saraland AL and to our second lunch destination; Winztells Oyster House (famous for fried green tomatoes with creole sauce).  Filled up on some fabulous food for lunch we headed to our final destination (we hoped); Metairie.  Following Roger’s escort vehicle we had a slight detour into Gulfport and Waveland to review progress of the rebuild.  Unfortunately much of the detour we took involved off-road and no-road driving which the bus was NOT suited for (heck the bus isn’t suited for highway driving much less off-roading).  Upon refueling and re-inspection of critical systems on the bus we finally hit the last part of the trip and arrived in Metairie weak, weary, and hungry at around 7pm.  We unloaded, landed in various rooms for the snoring, non-snoring, snoring-assisted, and male/female, grabbed whatever grub we could find and then were in the sack by 9:30.  I was up Monday at 5am looking for hot water and food.  The group was generally up at 6:30 and we were ready to hit the road by 7:30 to the VIM orientation meetings.  More to come!!!

Day 3 – January 12, 2009 – First Day of Work.  After breakfast the teams joined together for the required orientation at Peoples United Methodist Church.  There were originally six centers for relief setup within the VIM system immediately after Katrina – because of budget cutbacks and fortunately progress with the relief there are now only two.  The folks running the orientation threw out several interesting statistics; not many of them I remember – two that stood out was as of Sept ’08 there had been over 2.5 million volunteer hours put in and through a program with the federal government equates to $19.51 per volunteer hour in funding back to the disaster areas.  Some 90,000 plus homes have been restored and even more had ‘cases closed’ where at least a disposition had been made on the home.  We obtained our assignments and split up into groups able to handle the tasks.  Adam, Stan, and Pastor Jim got a kitchen counter and sink project.  Blair, Ken, Tim, Georgia, Rusty, and Matt took on a roofing project.  And Roger, Susan, Vonda, Bruce, and Nancy were supposed to get a drywall project but in true VIM fashion that which you expect and VIM don’t often collide in the same sentence and thus they were assigned to painting.  We divvied up the tools to the appropriate teams and everyone went about their merry way.   My team arrived at our location about a half hour away from the relief center and after an hour of inspection we determined that our crew was not able to do the job properly.  The homeowner had hired a rogue contractor crew (common story in this region) which did a very poor job especially on the framing which led to an even worse job of shingling.  As a result the house was leaking badly in several places and set to leak even worse in the future.  It was a shame because the homeowner really needed an entire new roof but we didn’t have the staff or time to do it.  We were assigned another house on a completely different side of town in Waswego and this was a house we could help out in a week.  After only starting at noon we were able to nearly completely strip the old roof off and assess our supply needs for completing the job.  A shopping trip to Home Depot on the way back to our bivouac filled out a lot of the finishing materials we would need and we arrived back as the last crew to check in.  Georgia and I ventured out into the local Metairie scene for dinner which included a meal of white beans and rice (white limas) and green onion sausage (a take on the classic creole red beans and rice).  It was fabulous!  A shower and a little downtime and it was lights out by 9:30 for us.



Day 4 – January 13, 2009 – First Full Day of Project Work.  The VIM cooks prepared us a fabulous breakfast strata (casserole) along with our usual cereals and breads.  Carbo loading is important on these trips.  Departure of all teams was at 7:30.  Today was perhaps the hardest this team will work during this trip.  In addition to completing the final pieces of old shingle and felt removal (down to the details) we began the process of old shingle hauling to the dumpster which was delivered, and a tremendous amount of repair work as there were many sections of the roof that had to be cut out and either replaced or improved.  Weak spots abound in this 1/3” thick plywood roof so walking on it is a delicate balancing act.  Blair found this out the hard way by putting his foot through a section which had to be added to the list of repairs.  Miss Betty’s back yard was littered with junk which the team also offered to remove since we now had a roll-off dumpster to work with.  The swing team of Brenda, Betty, and JoAnne arrived mid-day and helped a lot with shingle hauling and debris removal.  Our supply truck also arrived early in the afternoon much to our rejoicing followed by some dismay.  There was a $100 delivery deposit due which we thought the homeowner was covering however she wasn’t home at the time of the delivery.  A MUCH bigger problem was the new shingles which came on the supply truck; there was no lift on the truck.  7200 lbs of shingles had to be carried by hand up to the roof!  After shoveling old shingles to the dumpster for 3+ hours I wasn’t really too thrilled to start hauling 7200 lbs of NEW shingles up a ladder and then up the weak roof to stack at the very top as best we could.  Blair and Rusty ran 2 sets of ladders in a cycle and I ran stacking from the edge of the roof to the apexes, stacking carefully as to not overload and crush the framing from the weight.  Add to this that the shingles delivered were soaking wet; thus doubling their usual weight.  We added Matt to the rotation and believe it or not we managed to get all 72 stacks of 100lb shingles moved up – typically being brought in 1/3 stacks per person up.  Rusty and Blair were soaked at quitting time and not ready to even walk up a short flight of stairs when it was all said and done.   One of the funny moments was when we tried to offer cash to the fellows unloading the supply truck.  We offered them 50$ to help carry the shingles up and since they only spoke Spanish Joann and I translated.  I don’t personally think these guys would have done it for 200$ - they knew it was an ugly job.  At lunchtime Joann graciously drove Ken and I to a local chicken joint down the street so we could try out some nearby cuisine.  We both got some fried chicken and I got some red beans with mine – all of it was fabulous – from a place called Brothers which is basically a gas station right next to one of the levies.  As Ken mentioned in our post day wrap up – this was the hardest work we’ll have this week.  We finished out the day by finally getting some felt onto the roof and getting drip edge corners on nearly half the non rake edges.  Exhausted but still needing yet another trip to Home Depot for more supplies; mostly for the repair work we arrived back in Metairie around 6 – just in time for dinner.  Pork loin, potato salad, and green salad and of course dessert.  Dinner was great and in usual VIM fashion was the precursor to a shower and bed – lots to do around this area but you’re just simply too tired to do anything after a day of work like this.  We are seeing progress and that helps drive you to keep going.  I’m off to my air mattress – more to come!!!

Day 5 – The Shingles Hit the Roof.  A breakfast of French toast and oatmeal was provided by our wonderful swing team this morning and unceremoniously our teams got down to business by heading immediately to their job sites.  For the roofing team repairs moved forward with aplomb as did the remaining drip edge installations where they could be done were completed as far as they could go.  The other huge project of the day was the start of the felt laying.  Repair work above the garage was extensive and consumed 2 team members for much of the morning.  The other team members focused on laying felt and by noon at good portion of the roof had felt.  Joann and Betty from the swing team came by close to lunch and added help to the felting crew.  It was discovered the day before that our dubious transportation down here (“Goldie the Wonder Bus”) now had a headlight out as well as the open issue of the blown tire we were still hauling around, a jack that was now hemorrhaging hydraulic fluid, and the overall need that all tires be inspected before the return trip on Saturday.  Joann set out into the wilderness to try to rustle up a laundry list of missing tools and supplies we badly needed as well as to inquire as to where we could get a new tire on the blown spare and a headlight so we wouldn’t get pulled over not to mention for safety.  It took quite awhile but all missions were accomplished save for the tire issues.  Meanwhile lunchtime the team decided the day before to try out a soul food restaurant that was on the way into our job site called ‘DatsWhatItIs’ for lunch.  Joann took all the orders and made the run for us.  Menu items like chicken-fried pork chop, potato salad, mustard greens & rice, fried catfish, cornbread, and fried chicken were popular choices.  We’d been curious about a dish we’d seen advertised at several local shacks around town called ‘Yacamien’ and so two of us dared to try that as well. Turns out ‘Yacamien’ or ‘Yacameat’ as it is often referred to down here was brought over by African American Korean War vets and is basically a chicken soup made with brown chicken stock, lo-mein noodles, green and white onion, hard boiled egg, and dark meat chicken.  The team was mixed on its reviews of our lunch adventure.  I think the consensus was a C to B- on the overall grade.  Nothing to write home about but also not bad either.  By the end of the day it was becoming clear that we were going to be pushing the limit of this roofing crew as to completion by Friday evening.  Ken, our crew chief and foreman is leaving Friday morning so we only have one more day with his invaluable expertise.  After a dinner of chicken, baked potatoes, broccoli, green salad, and of course dessert provided by our hosts; the Munholland United Methodist membership, the VIM team had a meeting to assess division of labor in order to at least ensure the roofing project left the area and the house water resilient enough for the next team coming in next week to finish if not complete the project altogether which is our main goal.  We moved some personnel around and planned to gain the 3 members of the plumbing team sometime Thursday when they wrap up their projects and mapped out a precise plan of attack for the work Thursday.  This included changing our departure time from 7:30am to 7am.  Shingles did manage to get on the roof later in the day today however progress was slow.  We should have two men on the nail guns tomorrow and a support crew for each making it go much more smoothly.  Its late and I’m sunburned, exhausted, and sore.  More to come!!!

Day 6 – The Longest Day.  Finally we're down to almost nothing but shingling left to do and a handful of small details like bits and pieces of drip edging, one or two minor roof repairs (3/8” thick plywood roof – not exactly sturdy) the only remaining task was setting up the assembly line of shingle installers.  With 2 air guns working we setup 2 teams of 3 workers – one running the gun, one running measurements, placement, and custom cuts, and one feeding shingles. The system was effective but often tedious – we are not a professional roofing crew after all.  There was a housing development being built very close to our project house and after awhile the jokes started pouring in about how those crews were finishing three roofs a day to our one project that will take us a week to complete.  Some of the better jokes were things like “oh look a family just moved into that house” (that they started building on Tuesday).  Undaunted we did the best we could and mistakes were made here and there but nothing that would prevent our roof from being functional or attractive.  Today was Ken’s last day (our foreman) and so we had to do everything we could to prepare to be without him.  We left early and worked until 6pm and made considerable progress but the likelihood of completion was looking more and more distant.  Ken and I hit Brothers around the corner for lunch again – very good fried chicken and red beans & rice!  Dinner was a free-for-all tonight as this was our night to be out in the French Quarter but we postponed that due to being behind on our project.  Most of us went to Zekes around the corner which is a decent local joint – but their food pales to the mighty Wintzell’s Oyster House in Alabama!  Most of us were in bed by 9:30p – it was that kind of day.