Thursday, June 14, 2012

Team Asbury heads to Sayre, PA

Team Asbury heading to Sayre, PA

“Team Asbury” – flood relief in action

“Team Asbury” left the church parking lot at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, June 10, 2012 to head to Sayre, PA to help with flood relief due to the Susquehanna River overflowing its banks.

Those traveling were team leaders, Ken & Julie Davis.  First timers were Sheryl Fresch, Mark Mancos and two youth – Ellis Giacomelli and Samie Cox.  Others on the team who have accompanied Ken & Julie on other disaster relief trips were Rich Giacomelli, Joel Cook and Rachel Cook. 

We arrived four hours later to a house owned by the Ukrainian church.  The girls/women are in a room with seven beds and the men are in rooms with four beds.  After a good night’s sleep (90 degree temps) the men were up at 5:00 a.m., waiting to start their day, and not being able to sleep because of the heat.

Meeting with the UMCOR Director, Jerry, he gave us our assignments for the next few days.  Things are in such a disarray at the houses we were assigned to.  Words that come to mind are excited, anxious overwhelmed and sadness.

Day One  we were split up between two houses.  One house was owned by Roxanne whose house was at the state of touching up of paint around receptacles, putting fans together, mudding and sanding, removing and replacing receptacles.  Each room in this house was a different color ranging from hot pink to orange, to purple and green!  Two of our girls were putting a fan together and one happened to drop a screw into the fan motor!  OOPS!  No shaking or turning would release that screw so they had to finally have someone with a magnet get it out.

How many Methodists does it take to install a recessed light?  At least four women and one man tried for about three hours and we had to have someone who knew a little more about recessed lighting (Ken) come in and fix it.  Took him 20 minutes while we all struggled for about three hours.   I know some of the group are saying they don’t know how to do something, but they all have willing hearts and want to learn.  We are not perfect, but we are trying as we love to serve and learn.  We worked really hard and I know there will be a few stiff bones in the morning.

The other house was owned by Chris and Chopper.  Drywall had to be ripped out (do-over by another group), new dry wall, taping and floating.  The youth got a lesson from Ken on how to tape and float.  They are fast learners.  Sanding will be next and then floating and sanding to a smooth surface.  Needless to say, the group was exhausted, but we did watch a movie “Kate and Leopold” before we all called it a night.

The men weren’t the early risers on Day two.  We were all assigned to the same houses on day two.  Roxanne came to meet us today and gave us a hug and called us her “house angels” – what a beautiful thing to say. 

Our dasy consists of working, eating, sleeping, showering, sharing our day with the group and a devotional time before going to bed.

Day three was an exceptional day.  A lot of taping and floating and those that did not know how to use power tools learned…nailers, saws, scorers…and learned how to lay tile, luann board…so exceptional that we had one of our youth so exhausted she went to bed at 6:00 p.m. and did not rise until the next morning at 7:00 a.m.

Most nights we have gone back to our work sites after dinner and worked for a couple of more hours, trying to finish what we had started that day.

Some comments have are they wonder how can these people get through this devastation – they have lost everything!  I honestly can say that I have been through this – Hurricane Agnes in 1972 came to Wilkes-Barre, PA and nearly destroyed the town.  The dike broke at the cemetery and brought up bodies and such disease was prevalent.  Shots were administered to protect us and the stench prior to the clean-up is one that will never leave your memory.

Day four continues what we have been doing.  We originally were told we would be painting.  That has not happened yet.  We continue with the taping, floating, sanding, nailing luann, etc., etc., etc.

I continue to be the "go-fer" and chief cook and bottle washer.  One of the girls said she didn't think she lost any weight this week.  They all work so hard, I want to make sure they are well fed.

Friday our day ends in the afternoon.  It is bittersweet to say goodbye to all we have started and cannot finish and trust that the next team will be as enthusiastic and energetic as our group has been through this week.

Keep posted for more updates in July.

Ellis protecting herself from sanding the drywall mud

Samie prepared for the dust
Rachel ready to sand
Rich eager to start

Fellowshipping with Jerry, our Disaster Recovery "boss"
Joel "pretending" he has his mask on

Julie's sit down job
Even the "boss" (Ken) lends a hand
Roxanne (owner) with Sheryl, Ellis & Mark
Sheryl "laying" tile
Mark & Sheryl hanging one of the fans in Roxanne's home

Monday, April 02, 2012

Home again

Hello to all,

Most of you know we are HOME!
It sure seemed like a longer time this year.

We left my sister's home and temps in the 70s...we got home and it was snowing in Girard!

Helen, Blake & Julie in Milford, IL
Many of you at church may remember my sister and Blake.  Helen used to be the crib room attendant and Blake was in Sunday School.  They used to live less than five miles from us - now it is over 500 miles.  I miss having her around here.

We do have our weeping cherry that has bloomed and our grape hyacinths that are just beautiful!
Welcome spring!

Our next mission trip will be to the Susquehanna Valley in PA in June.  Keep posted for further pictures as we lead a team from Asbury on this flooding disaster.  And they call us Disaster Junkies!

Blessings to all for a blessed Easter and remember why He died for us!

Julie & Ken

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Heading Home

Our trip is fast approaching the end.  We traveled to visit with Ken’s previous secretary, Jackie and her family in Dallas.   Unfortunately, Jackie’s granddaughter was admitted into ICU and we were not able to have our yearly visit.  Prayers go out to Kensley, who is less than a year old and has leukemia.

Onward we went north to visit with my sister, Helen, her husband, Mike, and our nephew, Blake.  Blake is in a play this week and is very excited about it.  He has also become an avid fisherman – where ever there is water, he takes his fishing pole.  He called me a couple of weeks ago to tell me he was starting a blog on ‘fishing tips’ and asked me for some so he could put them on his blog.  Me, who always had to have someone bait my hook and take off the fish, give him tips.  So, I ‘googled’ tips and gave them to him.  Ever since Helen and Mike went to a cottage on the lake, Blake cannot seem to get enough fishing.  My brother, George and his wife, also arrived to visit with Mom. 

Helen, George, Julie & mom in front at Rehab Center in IL

We meandered our way back south to Arkansas to babysit our great-nephew and great-niece.  Our middle great-nephew (Keifer) was having testing done at the Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, AR  which is about four hours away.  My niece, Aly, has waited all year for this appointment and we told her we would babysit the oldest and youngest.  Austin is 11 and Airyanna is 4 (she was born on Leap Year Day, Feb 29).   We took everyone to putt-putt golf and the two youngest, Keifer and Airyanna each got a hole in one!  And they beat us with their final scores!  We all did a hold in one eventually, but not until we took a ribbing from the young ones.  We also went to their baseball practices a couple of times and played in the park.  It brought back memories of when Karen (our daughter) was young – she (like Airyanna) just could not get enough of swinging and the trampoline. 
Alyanna & Austin playing Putt-Putt

Airyanna playing Put-Putt

Keifer lining up for a putt

Airyanna & Ken on the trampoline

As I post this, we are beginning our trek home and leaving temperatures of high 80’s.  We will pick up our “rolling condo” in IL at my sister’s home.  It seems like we have been gone a long time this year – it will be good to get home.

See ya’ll when we get home.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mission Accomplished!

Hello all,

This Monday was our final work day for this Mission trip.  We had volunteers from Flordia,  Alabama,  and Ohio.  A total of 20, but only 8 at our site.  We accomplished quite a bit, finished wood laminate flooring and installed base molding in both bedrooms,   grouted tile in the bathroom, cut the kitchen countertop and installed the kitchen sink, and put final coats of paint on the exterior doors.

Ken & volunteer cutting out for sink

Ken laying laminate floor

Kitchen getting ready to cut countertop
Ceramic done!

Volunteer laying flooring in bedroom

Volunteer installing trim

Group that helped with flooring, ceramic, etc.
As we left the site for the last time, we said good-bye to those we have worked with and enjoyed being a part of their lives.  We have finished our recovery work for this winter and have been asked to come back.  But, as we told them, we are not sure what disaster we will be sent to next year.

We said hello to people at Dantzler UMC in Moss Point, MS where we enjoyed a Lenten dinner with friends we have made over the years.  Seafood Casserole was the meal of the evening.  Azaleas are mostly in full bloom – there has been no winter here either.    

Sandra & Pastor David Greer
We made our annual trek to visit with Ernest & Callee and found out that Ernest was in the hospital where he had his leg partially removed.   Callee said he was a bit down and we asked if we could visit him and she said he would probably enjoy that.  When he saw us his eyes lit up and he wanted to jump out of the bed with joy.  He was so thrilled that we took the time to come to the hospital to visit with him.  He said he was sorry he was there and wouldn’t be able to deep fry us a turkey – we told him next time.  Callee is still suffering with her cancer and she says there are days it is unbearable.

We took a side trip along the coast to Biloxi to see the rebuilding.  A lot of the homes that were destroyed on the shore are for sale.  Of course, the casinos are being rebuilt right on the beach – what a sad sight to see – the beautiful white beaches with these huge buildings on them.  The lots where once stood beautiful southern mansions, are now vacant.  The once beautiful spreading live oak trees are diseased and dying from the salt water infusion.

Next we traveled to Beaumont, TX where we met Pastor Billy & his wife, Dawn, and caught up with their lives.  Pastor Billy and Dawn left Galveston and moved to Beaumont, TX to be near their son and granddaughter, after monies ran out in the Galveston area for rebuilding and his previous church could not continue to pay his salary.  He has started a new church called, “The Gathering” in Beaumont, TX.  We reminisced about our days in rebuilding Galveston and how much fun we had and that we did make a difference.

Dawn & Pastor Billy Graff
As we continue to drive to our next stop, Dallas, the wisteria are in full bloom!  What beautiful lilac colors.  We are also on the lookout for bluebonnets, the state flower, which emits a delicious aroma – a fragrance so strong that a patch can give you an instant headache.

Wisteria in full bloom

Wisteria & BLUE BONNETS! (in front)

Azaleas blooming

See ya'll soon.

julie & ken

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Doors and Floors

This was our last week at 122 Juanita Drive and a lot has happened in this short time. 47 volunteers from Wisconsin descended upon us – one carpenter, one painter and all the rest - amateurs, but willing to learn.  At one point, there were toooooo many people in the house and not quite enough jobs to go around because of some ‘re-dos’.

Volunteers everwhere!
  Monday started out relatively calm, but then when the doors were to be put in, it was determined that the rough opening frame for the door was too small for the standard door that came in.  So, Ken re-worked all the openings so the men could get the doors in. 

Ken fixing the first of 8 incorrect door openings
Ken and Chuck(from Wisconsin) installing door


Of course, that put the painting behind schedule so we had about six women who had nothing to do. 
Painting trim
Painting Doors

But then it all seemed to come together.  Painting was completed, interior doors installed, trim around windows and doors installed and painted, kitchen cabinets were installed, electrical outlets and covers installed, ceramic tile installed and laminate flooring started.

Hanging Kitchen cabinets
Installing fans

 Ken did make the people who trimmed out the window, take it all down and re-do it.  He asked them if they would like to see that in their house and they said no.  So why would you do it in someone else’s home, he queried.  Once they re-did it, the remainder of the window trim was done correctly.  One lady insisted on putting a ton of nails in one spot (to make sure it was secure).  I counted ten nails in one seam.  Marvin gave them the correct way to do it and said that if you put it in the right spot, you won’t need ten nails. 
Cleaning and prepping floor
Installing Ceramic tile
Bathroom floor 

On Friday we had a very short day.  We were under severe storm alerts, the schools closed at noon, and UMCOR pulled all the volunteers off the job site at 10:30 am.  We listened to the storm reports all evening.  We got a lot of rain and wind, but no tornadoes in Tuscaloosa.  Our electrician however lost his roof to straight line winds Friday night.

Wisconsin Volunteers leaving after a short day on Friday
I have been doing a lot of ‘go-for-ing’.  In fact, the cashiers at Home Depot began counting as to how many times in one day I would be there.

Along with ‘supervising’, I got handy with the screw gun.  Here I am screwing down the permaboard before the ceramic was being put down.

Julie hard at work
Her favorite new toy!

Left to be done this next week is laminate flooring, plumbing fixtures, final electrical and plumbing inspections -- Then Deloris will be moving in.  How exciting to see completion nearing the end and how exciting it would be to see her face when she sees this.

Ken installing wood flooring
Kitchen base cabinets installed

At church today, the pastor brought us up to the front of the church to tell of our workings here in Tuscaloosa and other areas we have done disaster recovery.  Of course, Ken would not say much – he let me do all the talking (go figure).

On Tuesday next week, we will be heading to Moss Point, MS where we began our inaugural initiation into becoming Disaster Recovery ‘Junkies’.  We received a note from the pastor’s wife wanting to know when we would be arriving, as people have been expecting us.  Then onto Beaumont, TX to visit with Pastor Billy and his wife, Dawn, who we worked with in Galveston. 

Make a note:  those of you planning on doing a mini mission trip, please sign up for June 11-15 to eastern PA to help with the flooding.  If you have never done one, this is an experience you won’t forget and will learn more about helping others.  Who knows – maybe you will become a Disaster Junkie!  So keep posted as we lead members from our church to experience this wonderful ministry.
More to come as we come to an end of our mission trip. 

Posted:  March 4, 2012

Saturday, March 03, 2012

(Our 15 sec of fame!)

Julie was interviewed by an AP reporter during our work here in Tuscaloosa. I show up in the video briefly (wearing a black Purdue sweatshirt). 

Here is the link to the video:

If you want to read the complete interview, go to this link:

Then go to the search box on the left side, Search for "Disaster Junkies" .

(Our 15 sec of fame!)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One of the reasons we are here

Hello friends,

The weather has gotten better - cool at night, warm during the day - at least if you put it into "perspective" of north vs. south.

Our week continued in building the handicap ramp, which is now complete.  Ken and Tom put the ballisters on the ramp while Deb and Barry trimmed out the porch.  Yes, it would have been nice to have enhanced the railing with spindles and be able to use metal brackets and bar for the handicap rail, BUT, all of those things would have cost an extra $$$ which we could use elsewhere.  They made it work with what we had.  The American Disabilities Act code is very specific as to the height and spacing.  Using discarded pieces of 2×4 for blocks to hold the railing along the sides and applying liquid nails and screws to secure together.  It met the code, so Ken, Tom and Barry’s job was done.

Completed handicapped ramp
Ken built an extra shelf for me inside the UMCOR trailer to help keep it organized.  Of course, everyone must bend down to see it - it is at my level - OOPS.

Ken adding shelf
Inside the house there was sanding and mudding of the walls and ceilings left to do before paint was to be applied.  I had done a little too much sanding and floating that my right arm was paining me and it was difficult to do a lot of things because of the brace I was wearing.  I felt totally useless because I could not help inside, and UMCOR had no groups scheduled this week, but at the last moment we were blessed to have a crew of ten from outside of Cleveland, OH to help with this.  They were so eager, that we let them sand, prime and paint the ceilings and walls.  Now it is looking like a house and closer to moving into.

One of the volunteers from Ohio
One day a road crew was ripping and tarring the road.  A few volunteers were standing in a circle talking when one of the men drove up and yelled out his window, “Do y’all take prayer requests?”  I know I, as well as the group looked at him quizzically, but one of the mission organizers (Paul) told him, “Come on! Park that truck and come over here.” Paul said that there was no reason they couldn’t pray for him right here and now.  The truck driver parked his truck and came over for prayer.  Apparently, he and his girlfriend were having some difficulties and they had been praying for  guidance in their lives.  The group prayed for him and after thanking them, he put his truck in reverse and drove back to his job of dumping asphalt.   He stopped in the next day and said that the prayer gave him a peace he had never felt before and he was ready for what God had in store for him.  This is one of the reasons we are here!  You never know when you can touch someone.  The driver said that he had asked another group at a previous house to pray for him and they wanted to have him make an appointment.  Our group was in the right place at the right time.

On Friday, the local Police officer who has been patrolling the area stopped in to see the house and talk and thank the volunteers.  He spent about half an hour talking about what had happened before, during and after the storm.  The volunteers had many questions for him and he was very obliging about talking about the storm.

Local Police from Tuscaloosa giving encouragement to volunteers
There are times when you are on a job site that you must make the most of a moment.  As I was helping Ken with the railing, I noticed a pattern in the wood – to me it looked like a woman.  Of course, Ken and a few others said that it was ‘KNOT’ a person nor was the other one an angel – I saw it with my artistic mind.  Can’t you see it?
Woman in the knot of the wood
Angel in the knot of the wood
Deloris stopped by prior to completion of her ramp and made her initial walk. She was so elated as she walked up the ramp, clutching onto Deb (volunteer from York, PA) and exclaiming through tears, how wonderful it was, and that she had never seen anything so beautiful.  I think her joy made her move faster than I have seen her move in the past. 

We ventured out on Saturday for a tour of the area and some of the architectural highlights:  Bama Theatre, one of the oldest operating theaters in Tuscaloosa decorated in the Moorish style of Renaissance Spain; the Battle-Friedman House and Gardens which has an elaborate architectural detail built in the early 1800’s built with brick 18” thick.  Another house we saw was the Maxwell Peters Home built in the 1860’s with its English architecture – so much architecture from so many areas.

The First Presbyterian Church is a neo-Gothic church built in 1921.  There are a variety of antiques consisting of a 15th century German and Flemish stained glass and a 16th century Italian baptismal font.

Baptismal font

One of the stained glass windows
Another stained glass window
University of AL had a Round House built in 1860 to shelter sentinels serving guard duty at the University as part of the military system to preserve order among the students during the Civil War.

Round House
The Gorgas House is the oldest building on the campus.  This was one of the buildings spared when Croxton’s soldiers burned structures on the campus in 1865.

Gorgas House
Of course, I gravitated towards the Arts & Sciences Department and Ken felt it had some ‘interesting’ statuary.  This one caught my eye.  It looks like a fallen robot.

We drove up to an area that was hard hit and throughout our drive you see “stars” scattered all over the area of Holt and are called “Stars for Holt”. The children from the local elementary school painted the stars. Holt has come together stating (with these stars) that they will return and restore their neighborhood.  One looks at all the debris and wonder how much time it will take – but it is also a reminder of all that still needs to be done.

Star of Hope

This says it all!
There was a lone red door in the middle of the field as we were touring and we stopped and got out to check it out.  It was a ‘safe fallout shelter’ that made it through the storm, as I am sure did the people.  Ken went down to take pictures, and there were still  remnants of what had been left behind.

Lone red door in open field

Inside the fallout shelter

Inside of fallout shelter

This is our last week here in Tuscaloosa and we will be anticipating the swarm of 50 people blessing us with their help this week.  We will be painting trim, hanging doors, and  hopefully installing flooring and cabinetry.  Deloris will be so excited when she comes in this week.

The friends we have made from our onset here are leaving us.  Tom from Iowa left on Saturday, Barry and Deb from York, PA will be leaving us on Monday. Barry and Deb have been working here since Jan., Tom started in Oct.  It has been a pleasure working with them and becoming friends.   These are people you do not forget as they are – DISASTER RECOVERY JUNKIES!  Just like us.

Barry & Deb from York, PA

Ken and Tom from Iowa

Stay tuned.