Locals help after storms

Volunteers from a local church recently traveled to Birmingham, Ala. to contribute to what Becky Sunday defined as “the community of Christ.”

Sunday, the minister of Church Development and Parish Life at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, was one of 15 parishioners along with other volunteers that made the trip to Birmingham to help clean up storm damage. The opportunity came up through the United Church of Christ Volunteer Ministries, in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity’s Birmingham office.

“The whole trip was about building up the body of Christ,” Sunday said. “Everybody felt it was worthwhile. It felt good doing something that would impact people in a real way in the name of Christ.”

From April 25 to April 28, 2011, a single-system storm produced 358 tornados, the largest ever recorded in one system. The storm caused 348 deaths, including 238 in the state of Alabama alone. The storm caused more than $11 billion in damage. A year later, many people are still suffering from storm damage.

“The high school kids wanted to do something this summer that would help other people,” Sunday said. “It grew out of that.”

Eight teenagers, Sarah Ferguson, Hailey Wurster, Nicole Hornic, Mary Frische, Teal Clay, Makayla Halfhill, Chloe Adkins and Holden Hengstler, along with seven adults, Pam Halfkill, Scott Hengstler, Mindy Webb, Linda Unrue, Kayla Limbert and Sunday made the trip and worked on three different projects while they were there. The group drove to the area in two passenger vans on June 25, worked from June 26 to June 30, and drove back July 1.

“We worked on three different homes in various stages of repair,” Sunday said.

The first two days the group worked on a heavily damaged home of an elderly woman. The home had suffered enough damage that Habitat for Humanity had decided to tear down the former home and build a new one.

The woman became the victim of a scam immediately after the storm. A contractor representing himself as a general contractor showed up at her doorstep and offered his services. The scam artist performed only temporary repairs to the property and took off with the woman’s insurance money.

“We did a big part of demolishing her home to get it ready,” Sunday said. “We got to meet the lady and her story was truly amazing. After meeting her it really brought home why we were there.”

The work performed by the group in those two days saved approximately $6,000 in work, according to Habitat for Humanity.

On the third day of the trip, the group spent time working on the outside of a home that had already been repaired inside. The yard of the home was in complete ruin, with a lot of brush and other items still surrounding the property.

“We actually found Bibles, teddy bears, and other things on the property,” Sunday said.

Over the final two days, the group helped with a home that had already been partially rebuilt. Some of the work they did included cutting and measuring baseboards, cleaning, laying sod, and planting bushes.

“The lady that lived there was really excited,” Sunday said. “She was excited we were there and at getting to move back home. We got to see a bare yard and help get it ready for her to move back into in two short days.”

The group was right in the middle of its mission trip when they learned of the storm that came through Auglaize County on June 29.

“After seeing all of the damage, a lot of us were concerned with what we might come home to,” Sunday said.

While tired from all of their hard work, the group had time to reflect on their trip as they returned home and the help they could provide.

“We were helping show God’s love through our work,” Sunday said. “We got to meet other volunteers from all over the country and from Birmingham. We were also building the community of Christ with one another. I hope there will be other experiences like this. The volunteers worked hard and I am so proud of each and every one of them.”

Sunday thanked the church and the adult volunteers.

“We wouldn’t have been able to have made this trip happen without their help,” Sunday said.