Well not really but it felt like that. The rain was heavy, the wind was gusting and we were back at Linda’s house mudding and taping drywall. The crew is down to 3 for this last day and Beth, Sarah and Linda are focused on finishing the ceiling in the living room. Last night at the dinner the homeowner Linda mentioned how she wanted to help but didn’t think she was allowed. We invited her to join us the next day. She was so thrilled to climb the ladder and apply drywall mud to her own home. Her delight in seeing most of the mudding done and the contractor adding bead board paneling to her kitchen made our day.
This trip has been a moving experience for all of us. We got to make a real impact on the lives of two women who weren’t sure they would ever return home…and now they are counting the days. We got to spend time getting to know new friends in our own congregation and the folks at the Parsippany and Morning Star churches . We are already talking about our next mission trip to Bayville.
Our bodies may be sore, our clothes covered in paint, mud and drywall dust, but our hearts are full.
Gracie the dog was our mascot for the week and God’s Grace is what we experienced every day.
Day four of our work at the Jersey shore was grey and rainy outside, but dry and busy inside homeowner Linda’s house in Seaside Park, where we spent the day applying mud to the newly installed dry wall throughout the lower level of the house. The entire lower level had to have new walls and ceilings because, as we found out this evening, the storm resulted in a mold infestation in the house. That situation has prevented Linda from living in her home for a year now. In fact, all of the people whose homes we’ve worked on this week have been displaced for the entire year since Sandy, which struck two days before Halloween last year.
This evening, the two volunteer groups staying at Morning Star Presbyterian Church (namely the Old Pine group and a group from Parsippany, NJ) hosted a dinner for church members and for the homeowners whose houses we’ve worked on. It was a lovely opportunity for all of us to come together to celebrate the strength of the homeowners and the commitment of the church and volunteers. Two homeowners whose houses we worked on, Sharon and Linda, came. After a delicious meal, each homeowner had a chance to tell the story of how their homes and lives were impacted by Sandy. That’s when we heard about how Linda at first thought that her home had escaped serious storm damage because everything looked all right inside. The water came up to right below the floor. It was only later that she was told she couldn’t move back in as planned because of the dangerous levels of mold. Sharon’s story was different in that it was obvious to her from the start that she wouldn’t be able to move back into her home, which had just recently had some remodeling done, and which had approximately two feet of water inside it during the height of the storm. You can see the result of all that water in one of the photos in the “Day 1 – Sharon’s House” blog posting.
After a day of hard work and an evening of fellowship, it’s time for a good night’s sleep to get ready for our last day in New Jersey… for now.
You may notice the T-shirts we wear come in many colors but all have the same fantastic design. Starting in 2006 on our first trip to Pearlington MS, we have had team shirts every year in different colors. Our own Jody Graff designed the shirts and each year she updates them for us with the new location and date. The t-shirts over the years have been neon green, light blue, lavender, kelly green, burnt orange, teal, etc… This year we have navy with a buff lettering in honor of NJ state colors. Thanks to the cooler weather we could enjoy the darker color shirt and everyone loves how great these shirts look.
Those of us who have gone on several trips also have a collection of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance shirts. These are important symbols to let people in the community know we are here…and we keep coming back. Each day we are asked to make sure at least one person at each site is wearing a blue PDA shirt. For out of chaos, hope…
A number of our group had to return home last night after a cookout with the group from Parsippany, so we are down to five today. Linda, Jeanne, Ruth, Sarah, and Beth returned to Sharon’s house today with the intention to finish painting. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. Sharon, a boater, said it was blowing 25 knots. We’re not sure how fast that is, but it was pretty windy. Instead, we focused on the inside of her house, removing carpet nails and debris, and sweeping up. Her house will be ready for the next group, which will work on her floors and walls. We also planted some mums in her front flowerbed. Sharon took us out to lunch at the pizza place that has been letting us use their bathroom all week. The pizza was great and it was nice to patronize a restaurant where the staff is so nice. We really appreciated spending another morning working alongside Sharon in her home. It’s been wonderful to see the hope blooming in her as progress is made.
After lunch, we headed to Linda’s house in Seaside Park to do some taping and mudding of dry wall that had previously been installed. We met Linda, the homeowner, and John, the Hands for All worker. Linda Mill gave everyone a tutorial on taping and mudding, and we got to work on one of the bedrooms. We were joined by the group from Parsippany, who went right to work on another bedroom. We called it a day when it got too dark for us to see where the mud was going, but plan to return tomorrow for sanding and more mud. We are now going to go support the local economy by going out for drinks and dinner.
The Morning Star Presbyterian Church in Bayville, NJ is our home and base camp for the week. It’s a little like summer camp staying here as we’re all in a big multipurpose room on cots, with the showers down the hall and the kitchen upstairs next to the sanctuary. The congregation is committed to helping its neighbors, as can be seen by the food pantry and their willingness to host a PDA village. There is a committee of congregation members who coordinate and support the volunteers. The evidence of the church’s dedication to helping folks rebuild from Sandy is visible throughout the building, from the blue plastic/pvc rooming dividers to making the sanctuary the room for all meetings so that volunteers can have their own space. The most interesting sign is the painter hats along the entrance hallway that Morning Star has asked visiting groups to decorate. Each one tells the story of the group and the home city, and shows that folks have come here from near and far to pitch in with the recovery effort. We were lucky to have Tobey in our group and she did a great hat for Old Pine and the City of Brotherly Love.