West Virginia Disaster Relief Trip

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Over our past two summers working and living in Harpers Ferry we were very blessed to find a really awesome church. When we first visited Harvest Pointe Community Church, we were surprised to find we already knew several families from previous churches we’d attended, including the pastor who married us, along with his family, which made it much easier to decide to attend that church. Once there, we made great new friends that we really enjoyed getting to know.

This summer I was able to go on a short term missions trip with HPCC, my first since high school. At the end of June, southern West Virginia suffered massive flooding, with 23 lives lost and over 1200 homes destroyed. Our church partnered with a larger church family of Southern Baptist churches, and we assembled a team to go down and spend three days helping.

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The Harvest Point Community Church team!

Cleaning materials were desperately needed to combat the mold and mildew that set in quickly after flooding. The team running the relief operation assembled a list of these cleaning items, and created kits from them which would fit in a five gallon bucket, cost a total of $50, and would be enough to clean an average home. Our church raised enough money to buy and assemble 65 relief buckets, and we loaded those in a trailer and brought them down with us.

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When we arrived, we were met by an awesome and diverse group of experienced relief workers from all over the country. Many were retirees from construction fields who spent much of their year in their RVs, traveling wherever help was needed! What an awesome way to spend a retirement, and what a great reason to travel!

Every morning we’d gather for breakfast and devotions, and then head out into the field as assigned. Our team varied from unskilled to semi-skilled labor, so they split our team up, and sent Vance, an HVAC engineer and all around cool guy, and me to work on a house that needed a tremendous amount of work.

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The house was about 250 yards in front of the creek that had flooded. At its highest, the water had come up to the bottom of the first floor windows all around the house, destroying the first floor drywall, cabinetry, and furniture, and flooding the homeowner’s brand new HVAC system.

Previous teams had come in and gutted the first floor, removing all the dirt and mold. Once the inspector certified that the mold was completely gone, other teams had come and replaced about 90% of the drywall. Vance and I were tasked with finishing the drywall, and taping and spackling the entire first floor.

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We jumped right in, and over the next 3 days were able to put two coats of spackle on almost the entire first floor, including the bathroom, bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, enclosed patio, and utility room.

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We were also able to do some extra framing to support bouncy sheetrock, and framed and sheetrocked areas that hadn’t been reached before we arrived, including under the stairs in the living room.

Ryan & Vance Our Streamlined Life

I really enjoyed working with and getting to know Vance, and we had some great lunch break chats! I was fascinated to learn that he worked in a lab where they designed and tested cutting edge high efficiency heating and cooling systems for homes — and he offered to take us on a tour!

Meanwhile, the rest of our team was also hard at work. Since they didn’t have building experience, they were tasked with some of the heavy cleanup, which is an incredibly nasty job — climbing around sub-basements and crawlspaces through sitting water and sludge, and removing moldy wood, fiberglass insulation, and other debris from homes.

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Those troopers spent two days working in those conditions without a complaint. The third day, they moved onto a a rebuild job to help another team of contractors insulate and sheetrock the home of a local widow who lived right next to the creek — and whose house had been devastated.insulating

Vance and I, having finished as much as we could given the high humidity and slow drying time of the spackle, were able to jump in and help them with that job for a while before we hit the road back north to Harpers Ferry.

This entire trip was a tremendous experience, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to join in. Rebecca and I lead such a blessed life, enjoying the ability to travel and explore the country. This disaster relief trip served as a great reminder that not everyone is as blessed as we are. Working in these kind of situations has always helped me to keep my priorities straight, and I’m glad for the reminder this trip served as. Having the flexibility to be able to jump up and pitch in is just one more reason we love this debt-free, footloose life of ours!

Author
I grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Virginia, and married a girl from New Hampshire, so I can drive the East Coast in my sleep. I love exploring, jumping out of airplanes, whitewater rafting, fast cars, comic books, and generally refusing to act my age. More practically, I love budgeting and financial planning, renovating and updating older homes (and now campers), and learning to make our family as self-sustaining as possible.

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