Just in from Cedar Rapids. It was a great trip and I'll be reflecting on it for the next few days, probably post more about it here.
We drove up on Thursday and arrived at about midnight. Eleven of us in four cars. Friday morning we reported to the Churches United volunteer center and they sent us out to help with mucking in a house...there was already a team there but they had to leave at 11:30 to go back to California (and we thought we came a long way...) so we started work with them and were prepared to finish out the day.
However...shortly after lunch, Cynde and I were taking a break in the front yard and two cars full of AmeriCorps volunteers pulled up and said, "I'm afraid we're going to have to ask you to leave." I said, "For taking a BREAK!?" I thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. We all had to leave. Apparently there was a threat called into the main office and the sheriff required CU to evacuate all of their workers.
Who threatens volunteers!? Apparently there's been a lot of unhappiness in the area because there are some folks who want jobs doing the work that volunteers are doing for free. That's the only possibility we were ever able to figure out...And, indeed, we had to clock in our hours on time sheets, because we were "paid" $19 an hour for our work...it went straight to local relief work. It's a mechanism that enables the transfer of funds from the federal to local system.
So, how disappointing. Churches United said they didn't know if they'd be open the next day or not (and they weren't). "But we came from Texas for two days of work!"
The God thing was that we found out via Ted's dad that the local KC hall was hosting a New Orleans group called New Orleans Cooks, who came to CR to help out in return for all the help they received after Katrina. They set up at KC and cooked wonderful Cajun food for victims and volunteers for three days, and they worked like crazy on mucking out houses, including those of some KC members. So we got to show up on their doorstep on Saturday morning and say, "here we are...send us!" And they did. Turned out there was a home that needed to be finished and we spent our day doing that, while the group that had worked there the day before got to go do another home that wouldn't have been touched otherwise. :)
We stopped back by the KC hall to return a ladder and had some amazing food...including cheese grits, yum.
We were gorgeously hosted by Ted's family (he grew up there), his parents and sisters and a couple that are friends of theirs. We had two big family dinners at his parents' home. They made us part of the group and it was fun and happy and, oh, you all, it is COOL there. Local people kept saying, "oh, it's so hot today!" Ha, it was in the low 90's max! And we were fortunate to have breezes both days.
In short, it was a pleasure and a joy. Here are a few phone-camera photos - others took real camera pix so there will be better ones to share eventually!
Here are Angela and Mike, tearing out the dining room ceiling - water damaged:
Brent and Peggy tearing out the bathroom walls:
and Sarah, Ken, and Cynde lying in the yard taking a break. Check out the pile of debris we have taken out:
(Breaks are very important!)
I'm grateful to our congregation, who sponsored us with very generous donations of gift cards so that our supplies could be purchased and we were a self-sufficient team, supplied with hammers, crowbars, soap, towels, masks, goggles, disinfectant, gloves, shovels, and so many things. We were able to leave most of those items there for the use of future workers. Thank you, Annunciation! for your support!
Grateful to Ted's family, who made this possible and made us at home
Grateful to God for great weather and safe travel
Grateful to Brandon, who took care of our dogs (who are VERY glad to see us now)
Grateful to you for your prayers.