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A View from the Gulf - Wrapping Up

That’s a Wrap! (Jeff Munson, reporting)

All good things must come to an end and so it is with this mission trip.  As I write this (on a
bumpy road in Alabama), the team members are in various stages of heading out on spring breaks or back to work. 
Yesterday (Saturday), the team cleaned up the base camp (leaving it better than we found it, I think) and headed for New Orleans for a day of R&R. First stop was the Audubon Wildlife Park (the New Orleans Zoo) for a look at the animals and a chance to catch some sun on a beautiful, if not a little breezy day.  This is really a
great zoo and is one of the success stories of post- Katrina New Orleans.  The zoo was relatively undamaged after the storm, but not readily accessible and it was problematic how the animals were going to be taken care of.  The police and National Guard established camps up there, some zoo vets were able to return relatively quickly and the animals were taken care of.  A few weeks after Katrina, the animals started losing their appetites and were not doing well.  The vets realized that the animals were missing the regular human contact they had, and it became part of the duties of the National Guard to tour the zoo frequently and interact with the animals.  Seemed to work.  After the zoo tour, we all headed to the French Quarter for sightseeing, shopping, and dinner.  An early trip to the motel at the airport followed and early bed time since first flights went out at 6 AM Sunday (after losing an hour of sleep to Daylight Saving Time).  Sara and I headed north on our road trip back and got as far as Hattiesburg, MS before we crashed for the night.

On Friday night, after an evening of summing up our jobs, presenting the construction leaders with some souvenirs from the work sites and thanking everyone for their amazing work, I closed us out with these words from the late, great Harry Chapin, talking about his grandfather:

"My grandfather was a painter. He died at age eighty-eight, he illustrated Robert Frost's first
two books of poetry and he was looking at me and he said, 'Harry, there are two kinds of tired: there's good-tired, and there's bad-tired.' He said, 'Ironically enough, bad-tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people's battles, you lived other people's days, other peoples agendas, other people's dreams and when it was all over there was very little "you" in there, and when you hit the hay at night, somehow you toss and turn--you don't settle easy.' He said, 'Good-tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you don't have to tell yourself, 'cause you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days, and when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy--you sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say "take me away."' He said, 'Harry, all my life I've painted. God, I would've loved to be more successful, but I painted and I painted, and I am good-tired and they can take me away.'”

We made our team goals for the week:  We fixed something, we developed community, and we heard and shared new stories.  We have a reservation back at Camp Love for 2014, and the plan is to return next
year.  But for now, we are “good tired” and it is time to go home! 

A View from the Gulf - Day 5

Day 5 – Picture Day!

Today was picture day! We started the day by getting our full team photo (an annual tradition) and this pretty much is the only day that anyone makes an attempt to comb their hair.  Hygiene tends to take a back seat
to pretty much anything else.  Today everyone had a pretty good day and lots of good work was done.  Jeff and Chuck’s group finished their roofing job and P-Diddy’s group finished the interior work on the house where they were working.  Eric’s group continued their work at the Sea Shore Mission – here is Han Zhang’s view on their day:

Han Zhang: Today, we worked on the Sea Shore UMC Mission where we went on Tuesday. Based on the first
experience, the work seemed easier. And also the shelves were simple and light, so we efficiently moved two shelves to the storage area before we went to the coffee house for a break. After we left we realized we forgot Desi’s coffee so we had to go back, but the man was nice and gave it to us for free. When we got
back to the work place, we moved the other shelf and ate lunch. We were done with construction by 3:30 PM. Then we decided to visit Jared and his mother, and gave our love gifts from Maine to them. My job was taking pictures of them, at the second I saw the sights in the camera, I felt: Wow… That’s the most beautiful moment I’ve even seen, people and people’s relationships could be that close, including strangers. Today, I can say the things I saw were more important than what I did and it gave me kind of a special feeling. I’ve
learnt, the distance between hearts should be zero. 

John’s group finished their roof and continued to work on interior demolition. 

Ashley Doyle: Today I switched into John’s group to do some demolition work which was a very new experience for me but very fun. We started with chalk lining 4 ft walls and knocking them all down. We ripped down walls, and some of the ceiling, then moved onto the roof for a few hours where we used flashing to
extend the roof. Most of us forgot sunscreen and got some great tee shirt sunburns. Our water breaks consisted of feeding the owners dog, and playing with the neighborhood horse. Our group is full of energy and with them 6 hours flew right by!  

Other reports are a little light tonight – everyone is hitting the sack pretty early which gives me an idea for tomorrow evening’s post.  1 day left.  On Monday evening, it seemed like we had been here for forever.  And tonight, everyone is wondering where the week went.

More tomorrow!

A View from the Gulf - Day 4

Day 4 – Hump Day!

Wednesday was a pretty good day once everyone realized that we were serious about both sunburn and dehydration.  Lots of water being consumed and lots of suntan lotion being used.  Or if not used, then
the alternative is lots of aloe lotion.

It is worth watching the report from one of our locations – the Seaside Mission where TV crews
happened to catch Team Winter working yesterday.  Check out the story at http://www.wlox.com/story/21528489/seashore-mission-moving-into-new-home

Here are the reports from the teams today:

Connor Folks:  Today was the first true day of something with less function in creation and with more destruction. My group had the chance to dismantle, deconstruct and take down all the moldy walls in the house we have been working on. One of the walls was so full of mold that it looked like it was originally dark until a closer look as we examined it. Too bad the mold was causing some of the walls to emit some vulgar odors. What came next after removing some of the walls were some roaches to greet us, to which John
greeted them by stomping on them. It was pretty ugly.  Later that day we went to Sonic and it was a
first for some of our crew.  Unfortunately, the Sonic we chose to go to turned out to be closer to New Orleans than to our base camp.  It was still good.  Except for the part where we were late for dinner.  Again.

Emma Curnin: Finally, after our morning stretch and cinnamon bun delight, Team Inception (Emma, Maya, Katy, Bridget, Nancy, Sara, Larry, The Commander, Ross, Andrew & Chuck) headed out to our destination. The past few days have been spent making cement, moving wood, framing and putting up rafters.  Today was the hardest day but we finished getting the decking down on the roof, the majority of the felt on the roof, and
the first course of shingles down with no dehydration. Our homeowner, Ronnie, was kind and thoughtful enough to offer us some lemon zest cake along with the classic Pepsi. Even though the sun was trying to dominate our pigment and hydration, it didn’t stop us from achieving our goal. That’s what’s special
about Team Inception. We work hard and never let anything get in our way. That’s why we were able to finish the day off strong with a smile on everyone’s face.  Tomorrow we finish!

Sheng Chen: Today, Team Dust Bunny finally got rid of the dust. Having completed the sanding and
mudding of the house, we moved forward and did more priming. Our team was divided into two parts. Diddy and Ashley worked on cutting wood and framing the windows. Kaitlin, Miranda, and Sheng worked on priming. With the help from our team leader, Ashley learned how to cut the wood with the cutting table and
successfully framed the window. On the other hand, the priming group had finished the second coat of painting on the bedroom wall that we didn’t finish yesterday and further on completed two coats of painting through the hall way and another bedroom. It was certainly a successful day.

Another accomplishment of the day was that, with the supervision of our special guest, Ms. Chick, (or a puppet of Ms Chick to be more exact) our team had zero injuries. Ms. Chick, accompanied by Mr. Duplessis, had been hovering from places to place, rooms to room, windows to window, and from dryer to toilet. She never stopped reminding us to take a break and drink some water, keeping us from dehydrating and hurting ourselves. Thanks, Ms. Chick!

Molly McAleer:  We got off to a late start today because the original task we were supposed to be doing (sheet rocking and roofing) was changed to doing the tasks of yard cleanup. The family we helped today has had a really rough year, and she was so thankful to have us there, to simply help pick up and prune her yard. Karrisha, Han, Desi and Molly all raked leaves from her yard, and pruned branches from overgrown trees and bushes. We had a very successful day and the woman whose house was being worked on was very appreciative for our efforts. Remember no job no matter how small it is, is ever useless.

More tomorrow!

A View From The Gulf - Day 3

Molly McAleer:  We arrived at the site, and my group was working with a building that had not been
cleaned up or restored from the devastation of Katrina. There were large columns of rusted metal shelves in one of the buildings that we were asked to move to another building, requiring us to disassemble, move and reassemble them.
Our first set of shelves took us, in total, four hours to move and that was with WD-40. We met with some people who lived next door and met with the building manager, who told us that we were moving shelves from the very room Elvis had performed in the nightclub that it used to be. We also had a visit from the local television crew, and they interviewed a few members of our group!

Miranda Vilain:  It’s the second day at Marvina’s home and we were doing the final touches of sanding
and mudding. We were able to get two coats of primer done in the master bedroom and one coat of primer in one of the other rooms. After getting this done the house is really starting to look like it’s coming together and actually believable. Marvina’s mother stopped by today to see the progress and she was impressed - just to see the smile on her face made my aching back and tired arms feel much better. We also stop by a gas station a couple times for bathroom breaks and the cashier saw us all messy and asked us what we were up
to. When we told her she thought it was great and I can definitely say in that moment I felt so good to be a part of what we do here, but all in all were making great progress. Can’t wait to see how the house looks at the end of the week compared to how it looked when we got there.

Bridget West:  Second Day. I groggily get out of the car and immediately the Commander summons me to the pseudo-rooftop. Here, you and Katy get to put holes and lag bolts into the boards to make them more sturdy! Right. We got this! Our scrawny arms begin to reach over and under the beams to get at an angle to wrench those suckers in. My hands and hers now have many, many callouses… Simultaneously, rafters were being installed. Successfully installed. I had nothing to do with it and all the credit goes to Sara, the Commander, Andrew. I was busy wrenching with Katy and screaming at the chickens. Hehe.. Once they were in, Team Maya, Bwest, and Katy got to install hurricane straps. Whoo-hoo – SO many smashed fingers. But, the job was completed, and so were the rafters. Chuck, myself, the Commander, and Sara have
hoisted up OSB cut by Larry and transported up a ladder via the mules Ross and Andrew. The job will be finished by Thursday. Tomorrow, more SB and chalk lines and snaps and bees and chickens and sun and sunburns. Then shingles.



Holly Gallup:  It’s
the second work day and everyone is really starting to get into a rhythm. John,
Susan, Bill, and Connor really started tackling the roof and made major
progress. The roof is almost done except for a top coat that has to be applied
on rust on the roof to stop further water damage inside. Once the roof is
finished, everyone is going to start targeting the inside of the house. Meghan
and I had the interesting task of cleaning out the rooms in the house. Although
it sounds pretty straight forward, it was no easy task. The house was in ruins
at the beginning of the day. Furniture was tossed across the rooms, mold
claimed the walls, carpets and much of the owners clothing, and the pantry was
filled with rubble. It took the majority of the day for us to clean the rooms
and sort between the trash and the valuables. As well as conquering the roof
and the inside of the building, we all had to endure the smell that was
described as “death”. Meghan, being motivated decided to help John move the
freezer. About 15 minutes after getting freezer juice poured all over her
shirt, a dog comes over and pees on it. Another adventure that occurred was
that three people got injured on site today. That sounds awful until you are
informed that they all occurred trying to open a bottle of root beer. We all
learned the lesson that day that when someone asks to open the bottle for you,
you accept.

More adventures tomorrow!

A View From The Gulf – Day 2

Best Monday Ever.


The group is now working in five construction teams (actually – two are temporarily combined into one larger team for a tough framing and roofing job.) Here are the reports from each of the four groups:



Ashley Doyle:  Team Dust Bunny worked on sanding and plastering a house that was still recovering from Katrina. The home owners have had a very rough past few years and our job is to give them hope on being able to live in their house again soon. Today we finished sanding and plastering the entire house and tomorrow we will begin sanding that second coat and begin priming. From looking at us, we definitely looked like dust bunnies, covered from head to toe in a thick layer of plaster dust that was still appearing hours later. It was a fun and rewarding day but I’m sure team Dust Bunny is ready for bed.


Karrisha Gillespie:  Hey KH community, my team (Myself, Han, Molly, Mr. Winter, and Rev. Larson) had the pleasure of driving 1 hour to Mrs. Alice Ruth’s house. We could not escape the bitter cold air upon our tour of her rural home.  She, along with her nine brothers and sisters and mother (her father passed away when she was young), all lived in the house behind her’s. Her home was damaged by Katrina, and then was flooded with 2 ½ feet of water after Hurricane Isaac!  Her walls were stripped, which explained the cold. Today our task was to insulate all of her interior walls, which was a challenge for me because I have never insulated a wall or used a slap stapler or even seen that fluffy installation stuff.  However, our team was victorious and we left Mrs. Ruth’s house super warm.


Meghan Kebalka: The first day of the mission trip was a success. All of us worked together and made huge progress on a house that the homeowner has not lived in for over a year. Holly, Susan, John, Connor and I all worked on the leaky roof that caused severe mold problems leaving the house uninhabitable. Holly, Connor and I worked on cleaning up the outside of the house littered with trash, clothes and broken furniture. So far we have been very productive although a couple of our breaks were a little longer than they should have been. Holly and I went on walks to see the horses, donkey and dogs. We’ve also been playing with fire ant hills. Tomorrow we will return back to the house and finish the roof then start demolishing inside. Wish us luck!


Maya Bentley: Our first day on the site was an adventure to say the least. Many of us spent more time than we would have ever wanted to spend up on an extremely creaky roof. We are working to build Ronnie a new roof to go over his old leaky one, which involves climbing up on the existing roof and building a new frame over the old building.  It is a little nerve wracking and scary, but our group managed to stay in good spirits and continue to make jokes the whole time. We also had a run in with a tangled maze of roots while digging holes for the support posts. Tomorrow we start construction of the roof full time, which means spending most of the day up in the air.   On the plus side, we all got a lot of sun today.  Safety first! 



More news tomorrow.  With any luck, we’ll have pictures.


A View From The Gulf – the 2013 Mission Trip to Gulfport, Mississippi

Jeff Munson Reporting


Sunday evening- 8 PM.  Per our plan, we should be having our first meeting as a team right now down in Gulfport, Mississippi for our 8th annual trip.  Things rarely go as planned in the recovery business, however, and we are still trying to assemble the team.  The Avengers didn’t have this much trouble pulling it together.  Today was a travel day so not much to report on the building front.  Sara Munson '07 and I pulled into the recovery center at Camp Love just before noon today following a three and a half day road trip from our starting point in Brunswick,Maine.  It was a great trip for us – we took every opportunity we could to stop at silly “Roadside America” attractions – all the giant pencils and houses shaped like coffee pots and other silly things that we could find without going too far out of our way.  Weather was surprisingly good to begin with given what we left  up in Maine.  The odd thing for us was that we left Roanoke, Virginia yesterday morning at 7 AM to drive to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and had snow the entire way.  It was colder Saturday in southern Alabama than it was in central Maine.  But today in Gulfport, it was exactly what we wanted – sunny and upper 50s!  A gorgeous start to our week. 


Camp Love is a recovery center operated by the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church in partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We scoped out our dormitory and living area, two large bunk rooms. Slowly, other members of the team begin arriving. They have flown from Portland, Boston, and Manchester into Gulfport or into New Orleans, and have driven vans the hour and half from there to Gulfport. Larry and Nancy Perkins (RUMC) arrived next in their car following their own road trip south.  Other drift ins between 4 in the afternoon and midnite: Team leader Susan Baker (RUMC), Chuck Baker (RUMC), John Halberstadt (RUMC), Pat Duplessis (KH faculty), Eric Winter (faculty) and Rev. Desi Larson (faculty/RUMC) and Caitlin Hussey '06 (faculty) round out the adult contingent.  Returning for their second or third times are Andrew Boswell '13, Bridget West ’13, Katy Rieber ’13, Connor Folks ’13, Maya Bentley ’13, and Emma Curnin ’15.  New to the lineup this year are Molly McAleer ’14, Holly Gallup ’13, Ashley Doyle ’13, Meghan Kebalka ’14, Karrisha Gillespie ’14, Miranda Vilain '14, Ross Richards ’14, Han Zhang ’15, and Sheng Chen ’13. Joining us midweek will be Penny Winter (faculty). What a great group!



The work we are doing this week will be a combination of repair work from Hurricane Isaac in the fall and from a series of tornados that came through the area a few weeks ago, although one house still has some issues that need to be addressed from Katrina in 2005.  We will be doing a lot of roof work and interior drywall removal and replacement.  Our teams are anxious to see where they will be working.  Time now to get some sleep so we are ready to hit it hard tomorrow!  More to follow!


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