Chicago teens take Carroll County break
after working on hurricane clean up
|"Ten months later, the devastation is still worse than I could've imagine," said Justin Gierich, a student volunteer from Chicago who recently spent a week in New Orleans. "The devastation is still unbelievable."
The Saint John's Lutheran Church Youth Group of Chicago visited the Triple N Ranch on Highway 35 in Carroll County last weekend after a week of hurricane relief in New Orleans.
"It was a good experience. The children all came back changed with a better understanding of the devastation," said Kim Schuldt, volunteer leader.
The group consisted of a number of teenage students and three adults. They helped clean damaged houses and feed individuals in several neighborhoods.
The group roomed at the United Methodist Church of Gretna. Like many others in the area, the church's congregation shrunk by 50 percent after the hurricane. However, volunteers have been welcomed to sleep at the church since the hurricane, according to Schuldt.
The church and the youth group were brought together through the efforts of Youth Works, a nondenominational organization that schedules the arrivals of youth groups to hurricane devastated areas. Every week, new church groups from different parts of country go to New Orleans and the surrounding area to provide help.
The Chicago group was surprised to see the amount of work still needed in New Orleans.
"I was shocked at the number of houses that were left," said Mike Markwell.
One of the adult volunteers, Diane Barnes, crowned "Queen Bee" by the students said, "You only hear about the how the hurricane affected the poor. It was not selective. It destroyed well off neighborhoods, too. In one house, the residents spray-painted 'Allstate gave us $10,000 to pay for a house' on the wall."
The volunteers' exposure of the devastation increased at the moved from house to house. The letter "X" and a note hung on many of the houses to inform volunteers of what to look for when they entered. The notes read dead dog, dead person, etc.
"Seeing it in person was much different from the news. It is much more real and heartfelt," said Monica Carrington.
"I expected to see a lot of devastation. It didn't hit me until I spoke with people about losing their houses," said Justin Schuldt.
"Being on this trip makes you rethink your values," said Kim Wegner.
"Mudding," or removing the water-damaged contents from the houses, was one of the many tasks included in the volunteers' duties. According to Barnes, about half of the houses hadn't been cleaned out before the group's arrival. What the youth group did in four days with the houses, would have taken the homeowners months to accomplish.
"We worked in a house that hadn't been open since the hurricane," said Susan Markwell
Along with "mudding" the volunteers also "gutted" the houses, or took out dry wall, ceilings, carpeting, and insulation all the way to the studs. The youth group was able to see completely through the houses when they finished working. The volunteers gutted the houses to prepare them for rebuilding, according to Kim Schuldt.
In the midst of their endeavors, some of the volunteers would find themselves wondering about the displaced residents of each home.
"While I was gutting the kitchen of a house, I stopped and imagined how the people's lives were before the hurricane," said Lauren Eiklund.
The youth groups' duties did not end with mudding and gutting. The volunteers also assisted with Second Harvest, the food bank that distributed food to area residents in need. Their tasks consisted of loading and unloading trucks for distribution and moving numerous pallets of food. Everyone in the area was moved by the support received from the American people, according to the volunteers.
The food donations "showed how the American people felt about the people in Louisiana," said Mike Goddard.
After a hard week of providing relief in New Orleans, the volunteers rewarded themselves by relaxing and enjoying the activities at the Triple N Ranch.
"As a leader, it helps me feel like I'm doing a good job. The ranch feels safe for the children. We had an amazing time at the ranch. The children went swimming, rode horseback, and canoed. The retreat center is perfectly suited for a large group of teenagers. It was good for them after working so hard. The Triple N Ranch was the perfect host," said Kim Schuldt.
The horseback riding and the comfortable beds were the highlights of the stay, according to the group.
"It's nice to be able to relax after working," said Susan Markwell.
"Compliments to the Triple N Ranch," said Gierich.
The group agreed that they would do it all again. They have decided to go back to the Coast to provide relief for the residents during the summer of 2007. They also included the Triple N Ranch in their plans for next year.
"It was a good experience. I think they're definitely coming back," said Bobby Nored of Triple N Ranch.
©The Daily Sentinel Star 2007||